The EU Commission Decision against Servier – a New Dimension to European Pharmaceutical Antitrust?

July 11, 2014

(by Sven Gallasch) On 9 July 2014 the European Commission announced its decision to impose a fine of €427.7 million on French drug maker Servier and five generic companies in relation to so-called ‘pay for delay’ settlements concerning Servier’s bestselling blood pressure drug perindopril. The case differs from the Commission’s earlier decisions against Lundbeck and Johnson & Johnson in a number of rather notable aspects, which will be addressed in this blog post. Read the rest of this entry »


Competition Policy and Scottish Independence

July 1, 2014

(by Andreas Stephan) On 18 September 2014 Scottish residents will be asked whether Scotland should be an independent country. A discussion was held at the recent Antitrust Enforcement Symposium (held by the University of Oxford’s Centre for Competition Law and Policy) regarding competition policy in an independent Scotland. This blog piece focuses on the impact independence would have on competition enforcement in Britain. Read the rest of this entry »


The First Real Test of Sentencing for the UK Cartel Offence

June 24, 2014

(by Andreas Stephan) A former managing director charged with the UK’s cartel offence has pleaded guilty to the criminal offence of price fixing. Peter Nigel Snee pleaded guilty to fixing the price of galvanised steel tanks used for water storage and now awaits sentencing. His case provides an important first test for the sentencing of cartelists under the UK’s criminal offence. Although Snee is the fourth individual to be convicted of the offence, the first three (in the Marine Hoses case) actually requested custodial sentences because of the peculiar conditions of a plea bargain entered into with the US Department of Justice. The issue of whether Snee receives a custodial sentence is important to justifying the use of criminal sanctions in UK cartel enforcement. Read the rest of this entry »


Can the OFT Succeed in its Latest Attempt at Bringing Criminal Charges Against an Individual for Cartel Conduct?

February 18, 2014

(by Scott Summers) The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) has charged Peter Nigel Snee under section 188 of the Enterprise Act 2002. It is alleged that he ‘dishonestly agreed with others’ to fix prices, allocate markets and rig bids in the market for galvanised steel tanks for water storage, between 2004 and 2012. This is the UK’s first criminal cartel prosecution since the collapse of the British Airways trial back in 2010,[1] which left a number of unanswered questions about the ‘dishonesty’ element and the UK cartel offence in general. The Snee case will fall under the existing cartel offence. The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 will, from 1 April 2014, strip the ‘dishonesty’ element and introduce new carve-outs and defences to the offence. Read the rest of this entry »


Does Every Little Supermarket Price Guarantee Help?

November 22, 2013

(by Morten Hviid) Last week, Asda’s marketing chief was reported as saying: “It is strange to me that our competitors are touting how much they match prices and are working towards parity. I find it almost anti-competitive that large competitors are talking about and proud to be matching each other’s prices. We are the only ones standing up and saying we’ll be 10 per cent cheaper” (Marketing Week, 15 November).  I have previously pointed out the potential anti-competitive effects of price guarantees, so it is unsurprising that I agree with him on the first point.  I will spell out one overlooked implication of the guarantee offered by Sainsbury’s and partially copied by Tesco below.  However, he is a bit too quick to absolve Asda’s price guarantee from potential anti-competitive blame. Read the rest of this entry »


Chinese Milk Powder Case: How Should We Interpret a Price Cut on the Announcement of an Antitrust Investigation?

July 16, 2013

(by Andreas Stephan) Earlier this month, China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) announced an investigation into foreign manufacturers of infant milk formula. The very next day, two of the firms in question did something that would be unthinkable in Europe or the US – they announced they would lower their prices and other firms have since followed. Is this the behaviour of remorseful cartelists?  Or is antitrust being used by the Chinese government in the pursuit of non-competition goals?   Read the rest of this entry »


The UK’s New Cartel Offence: It Could Be Alright on the Day

July 9, 2013

(by Andreas  Stephan) The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 drops the requirement of dishonesty and excludes cartel agreements made openly. At a late stage three additional defences were introduced (s.47 ERRA). The defendant can show they did not intend that the nature of the arrangements be hidden from either their customers or the competition authority. It will also be a defence to show that a defendant took reasonable steps to disclose the nature of the agreement to lawyers, in order to get advice, prior to its making or implementation. Writing on this blog a couple of months ago, my colleague Peter Whelan expressed concern that this defence could pose a devastating blow to the cartel offence. Here I reflect on how this defence could pan out. Read the rest of this entry »


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