On February 8, 2019, the BKartA decided that Facebook’s practice to collect and combine user data from third-party websites/apps, including from Facebook-owned services What’sApp and Instagram, without requesting user consent is an abuse of dominance. It ordered Facebook to terminate the infringement, as well as to suggest solutions for an opt-out system, so that users refusing consent can continue using Facebook (and can only be subject to very restricted data collection and combination). This is a far-reaching decision and aims right at Facebook’s business model. Silke Heinz comments on the decision in Global Competition Review, see here.
She has also published a blog on the decision on Kluwer Competition Law Blog, see here.
Based on media reports, the Bundeskartellamt sent a letter to the European Commission opposing the planned merger, including with respect to the commitments the parties have offered. Silke Heinz is quoted on this in Global Competition Review, inter alia on the national competition authorities only having an advisory role in European Commission’s merger control proceedings. While they are heard, they cannot veto any Commission merger decisions. You can find the article here.
We have already featured the release of this report of September 4, 2018, dealing with the digital economy in our news section, see here [Link zur früheren Meldung auf unserer Webseite). In the meantime, Silke Heinz has summarized the 187 page report and analyzed some of the key messages it provides in a Kluwer Competition Law Blog, see here.
She comments on some of the proposed legislative changes, including the prohibition of unjustified prevention of multihoming and platform switching absent dominance and relative market power in markets characterized by high network effects and prone to tipping, and the changes to merger control rules to allow to prohibit large digital companies systematically buying start-ups as potential future rivals at an early stage of their development.
On September 18, 2018, the European Commission has opened formal antitrust proceedings against German car manufacturers BMW, Daimler and VW, including VW, Porsche and Audi, for possible collusion to avoid competition on the development and roll-out of technology to clean the emissions of petrol and diesel passenger cars in the EEA (see press release here.
The Commission dropped other discussions among these manufacturers on technical cooperation from the scope of its investigation. Originally, in 2017 both the FCO and the European Commission reviewed information on the allegations, before the European Commission carried out inspections. Silke Heinz is quoted on the opening of proceedings in Global Competition Review, see here.
The Ministry has published the study on September 4, 2018, see here.
The study deals with the question whether there are gaps in the current antitrust rules on unilateral conduct of dominant companies or companies with market power in the digital industry, and if yes, how to close these in Germany. The study provides a comprehensive overview and excellent analysis of a very up-to-date discussion among antitrust lawyers and economists, as well as some interesting recommendations. One focus is whether the already existing possibility for the authority in Germany to intervene even below the level of dominance should be expanded, for example in order to prevent the tipping of a digital market. Silke Heinz is quoted on the study in the Global Competition Review, including on recommended changes to merger control rules, see here.