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Your Weekly Digest | Issue 248

Valur Thrainsson
6 min read

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Here below, you find the most recent and relevant competition and anti-trust news, blogs and journal publications over the last week.

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Europe's top 'tech cop' is ready to take on Big Tech with America | Politico
Margrethe Vestager has been waiting for an administration like this — the European Union’s top tech cop says it’s a “dream come true” to have a president in the White House who’s dedicated to reeling in Big Tech. But what will that EU-U.S. cooperation look like? That’s what host Ryan Heath wants to know. Also on the docket: Vestager’s game plan to protect whistleblowers, plus her own rules for tech at home.
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Lawmakers seek to rein in big tech with bills aimed at competition and liability | Technology | The Guardian

One bill would prevent platforms from giving preference to their own products, the other would remove Section 230 protections

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The Bundeskartellamt has today published a progress report on its ongoing sector inquiry into charging station infrastructure (“Sector inquiry on the provision and marketing of publicly accessible charging infrastructure for electric vehicles”).
Andreas Mundt, President of the Bundeskartellamt: "Effective competition concerning the charging stations will help to promote nationwide coverage, reasonable prices and a range of choice for final consumers. In order to ensure this, we have to provide for open and non-discriminatory access to the market already in the current phase of infrastructure development. By making suitable public areas available and granting subsidies, the state itself holds the key to more competition with regard to the charging stations.” Read more.
The Department of Justice announced today that it will require Neenah Enterprises Inc. (NEI), U.S. Holdings Inc. (U.S. Holdings), and U.S. Foundry and Manufacturing Corporation (US Foundry) to divest certain gray iron municipal castings assets in order to proceed with NEI’s proposed acquisition of substantially all of the assets of US Foundry. NEI and US Foundry are two of only three significant suppliers of gray iron municipal castings in eleven eastern and southern states. Gray iron municipal castings are customized molded iron products such as manhole covers and frames used to access subterranean areas and grates and drains used to direct water in roadway, parking, and industrial areas. Read more.
A bipartisan group of senators unveiled legislation today that would dramatically curtail the ability of online platforms to “self-preference” their own services—for example, when Apple pre-installs its own Weather or Podcasts apps on the iPhone, giving it an advantage that independent apps don’t have. The measure accompanies a House bill that included similar provisions, with... Read more.
Data is the lifeblood, the currency, and the fuel that drives Big Tech and many of the products these companies offer. Read more.
A debate has broken out among the four sitting members of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in connection with the recently submitted FTC Report to Congress on Privacy and Security. Chair Lina Khan argues that the commission “must explore using its rulemaking tools to codify baseline protections,” while Commissioner Rebecca Kelly Slaughter has urged the FTC to initiate a broad-based rulemaking proceeding on data privacy and security. By contrast, Commissioners Noah Joshua Phillips and Christine Wilson counsel against a broad-based regulatory initiative on privacy. Read more.
 On 6 October 2021, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) issued its very much-awaited judgment in case C-882/19 Sumal, one of the most important cases in private enforcement of competition law of the last years. For those of you that are new to the case, the facts are as follows. On 24 October 2019, the Audiencia... Read more.
Agricultural economists manipulated data to block Congress from acting on high beef prices and the destruction of independent cattle ranching. Why? Because they think monopolies are good. Read more.
One objective of political finance is to hold power to account. However, gatekeeping, both direct and indirect, is keeping important work from being conducted and poses a threat to the whole field. Editor’s note: This piece is based on a keynote speech Renée Adams made on June 25, 2021 at the Second Political Finance conference […] Read more.
  • Assortment decisions are key strategic instruments for firms responding to local market conditions. We assess this claim by studying the effect of a national merger between two large Dutch supermarket chains on the depth as well as composition of assortment.
  • We adopt a difference-in-differences strategy that exploits local variation in the merger’s effects, controlling for selection on observables through a matching procedure when defining our control group.
  • We show that the local change in competitive conditions due to the merger led the merging parties to reposition their assortment.
  • While the low-variety and low-price target’s stores reduced the depth of their assortment when in direct competition with the acquirer’s stores, the latter increased their product variety.
  • These results seem to be driven by those target’s stores that were not re-branded, while rebranded stores that took the acquirer’s insignia, follow its pattern by substantially increasing their variety.
  • By analyzing the effect of the merger on category prices, we find that the target most likely dropped high-priced products.
  • Thus, the merging firms reposition their product offerings in order to avoid cannibalization and lessen local competition. Read more.
Cento Veljanovski
This article examines the relationship between the environment, sustainability, and European competition law. It shows that the European Commission’s decisional practice not to exempt anticompetitive agreements under Article 101(3) TFEU is because it selectively prosecutes hardcore cartels. The alleged ‘sustainability gap’ in EU antitrust is, therefore, more apparent than real. It is also shown that the Commission has adopted an efficient enforcement approach given the institutional and budgetary constraints it faces. On the other hand, the Commission’s guidelines on Article 101 TFEU lack coherence and consistency with its overarching Treaty obligations. The pros and cons of expanding Article 101(3) TFEU to take account of the third-party environmental and public policy factors are examined.
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