The Norwich Monopoly Monopoly

August 16, 2018

(by Paul Dobson in the spirit of summer)  This post is a reminder to all our readers to be vigilant in spotting monopoly practices on your own doorsteps. I report on my quick investigation into a potential abuse of local monopoly power. The case involves the independent Norwich toy retailer Langley’s, which has been trading since 1883 and has achieved a monopoly of specialist city centre toyshops. It is now openly boasting in its shop window that the board game Norwich Monopoly is exclusive to them, and charging £34.99, as the following photo shows: Read the rest of this entry »


Competition Law and State Aid in the ‘Brexit White Paper’: sensible alignment or unworkable proposals?

July 26, 2018

(by Andreas Stephan) In a previous blog post, I wrote of the UK Prime Minister’s unexpected discussion of Competition and State Aid, as two areas of policy where the UK’s Laws might remain “identical” to those of the EU, and where UK courts would “continue to look at” the Court of Justice of the European Union’s (CJEU) judgements. Following a dramatic few weeks in which the UK Government finally set out an agreed approach to its Brexit negotiations with the EU, a 104 page White Paper was published putting some flesh on the principles agreed by ministers. In this blog post, I discuss the extent to which the proposals on Competition and State Aid are workable.

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Are slot remedies sufficient in airline mergers? The currently hypothetical case of IAG/Norwegian

May 4, 2018

(by Tom Carr) On the 12 April 2018 the BBC reported that International Airlines Group (IAG) had acquired a 4.6% stake in Norwegian Air Shuttle (Norwegian). IAG (which includes BA, Iberia and its most recent acquisition, Aer Lingus) responded that their “minority investment is intended to establish a position from which to initiate discussions with Norwegian, including the possibility of a full offer for Norwegian”. Norwegian is bigger than Aer Lingus at Gatwick, has a higher route overlap than BA had with Aer Lingus, and is currently an industry disrupter in the lucrative transatlantic market. Will the standard remedy of a few slot divestitures be sufficient to address the competition concerns, or is it time to start blocking mergers? Read the rest of this entry »


Does the Prime Minister’s Unexpected Discussion of Competition Policy Signal a Softening of Brexit?

March 4, 2018

(by Andreas Stephan) On Friday 2 March 2018, in a much-anticipated speech meant to give clarity to the UK Government’s Brexit objectives,[1] the Prime Minister suggested that: (a) UK State Aid and Competition rules could remain aligned with those of the EU, and (b) UK courts could continue to have regard to judgments of the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Nevertheless, her speech also made it abundantly clear that the ECJ could not continue to have jurisdiction over the UK. While, on the face of it, this speech appears to reiterate Theresa May’s commitment to a ‘hard Brexit’, these significant concessions may signal a weakening of that resolve, as the Government acknowledges for the first time that – if the UK is to maintain a close trading relationship with the EU – the legal realities of Brexit will be complicated.   Read the rest of this entry »


Why ‘national security’ concerns are unlikely to impede the Melrose/GKN takeover

February 8, 2018

(by David Reader) After Melrose plc last week formalised its £7.4bn hostile takeover bid for the Armed Forces supplier GKN plc, Business Secretary Greg Clark is facing renewed pressure from the Labour Party and the UK’s largest trade union, Unite, to block any forthcoming deal on national security grounds.[1] Moreover, in response to questions over the transaction, the Prime Minister has herself declared that ‘the government as a whole will always act in the UK national interest’ when faced with such takeovers. Yet, although there is every possibility that the resulting merger would be subjected to national security scrutiny, there is only a very remote chance that the transaction would be blocked outright. Read the rest of this entry »


You lose, you pay (some) – the CAT’s cost ruling in Walter Hugh Merricks

January 23, 2018

(by Sebastian Peyer) The burden of costs in civil litigation is considered of great importance to the incentives to recover damages in competition law. In particular, the ‘loser-pays’ rule that dominates European legal systems is thought to create significantly greater risks for prospective collective actions, in contrast to the American rule where each party is normally responsible for paying its own costs.[1]  The UK Competition Appeal Tribunal’s (‘CAT’) recent ruling on cost in Walter Hugh Merricks v MasterCard is therefore significant in thwarting an attempt to deviate from the loser-pays rule that is prevalent in English civil litigation and striking a balance between applicants’ and respondents’ interests. Earlier this year, the CAT rejected an application for an opt-out collective proceedings order (‘CPO’) under section 47B of the Competition Act 1998 (see my comment here). The question that the CAT still had to answer was who would bear the cost of that unsuccessful CPO application and to what extent are the actual costs incurred recoverable. In its decision, the CAT stressed that the loser-pays rule applies to CPO applications, but reiterated that the parties’ expenses must be proportionate in order to be recoverable. This means that parties cannot inflate their expenses to discourage would-be claimants. Read the rest of this entry »


The deterrent effect of competition authorities’ work

September 15, 2017

(by Mike Walker^) In his post last month, Steve Davies bemoaned the lack of evidence on the magnitude of harm deterred by the activities of the Competition Agencies. He presented some estimates from research in CCP on cartel deterrence, concluding most strikingly: “On the most conservative of our estimates, more than half of all potential cartel harm never occurs, because it is deterred. This is very much a lower bound, and the proportion could be as high as 90%.” Read the rest of this entry »