Flight Centre: Australian High Court finds agent competed with principal and breached cartel laws

January 9, 2017

(by Julie Clarke[1]) On 14 December 2016, Australia’s highest court (the High Court) determined, by majority, that Flight Centre, a travel agent, competed with airlines for the supply of airline tickets and that, as a result, its attempts to induce the airlines to lower their direct-to-public ticket sales constituted unlawful price fixing. Flight Centre markets itself as offering a ‘Lowest Airfare Guarantee’. In attempting to induce the airlines not to discount tickets sold direct to the public, it was found to be in competition with the airlines and therefore subject to a per se prohibition rather than a full effects analysis. The treatment of travel agents and other similar arrangements falls into somewhat of a grey area in Competition Law.  Are the agents competing horizontally with their suppliers in selling to consumers, or are they better seen as vertically related retailers, or even as de facto employees?  This is important because horizontal cartels are almost universally per se illegal, often with criminal sanctions, vertical price fixing (e.g. RPM) has a much more mixed and nuanced legal position, and employees are completely exempt (a firm is free to set prices that all its salesforce must implement). In Europe, genuine ‘agency agreements’ fall outside the scope of Article 101 TFEU, even though they may contain clauses that can produce anticompetitive effects, such as minimum pricing.[2] This blog analyses the significance of recent developments under Australian Competition Law. Read the rest of this entry »

Drug prices post-Brexit – an expensive pill to swallow?

June 15, 2016

(by Farasat Bokhari) Much has already been written about the potential effects of Brexit on both the British economy as well as the rest of the word, vis-à-vis effects on immigration, employment, wages, inflation, investment, growth and so forth, and by now we know that either the sky is going to fall or it will be like manna falling from the sky.  Definitely one of those two.  Reality however is a bit more nuanced, and what follows may be sector specific and depend on the regulations and terms that are negotiated upon exit.  Post exit, will the UK be on its own in terms of trade agreements with the rest of the world, or will it, like Norway, be able to enjoy benefits of a single market by entering into European Economic Area (EEA)? Not to be gauche, how does it affect the price of my medicines here in the UK?   While the Farage v. Cameron debate rages on, in this blog I give example from just one sector – pharmaceuticals – to discuss how prices of branded drugs, which include new and important therapies, may increase due to various trade agreements post Brexit. Read the rest of this entry »

Other web browsers are available: The EC case against Google

April 26, 2016

(by Richard Cadman) On 20th April 2016, the European Commission (EC) sent a Statement of Objections to Google outlining its view that Google had breached EU antitrust rules by imposing restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile network operators (MNOs). This post briefly discusses the economics of this case and draws a parallel with the EC case against Microsoft (Case COMP/C-3/37.792), but also identifies two key differences. Read the rest of this entry »

Vertical Integration by Software Giants into Manufacturing

February 28, 2012

(by Bruce Lyons)  To business strategists and industrial economists, as well as competition practitioners, it is interesting to reflect on a recent trend in vertical integration.  Google, Microsoft and even Amazon have been positioning in manufacturing, at least in part inspired by the success of Apple’s integrated business model.  Could this eventually lead to vertical silos that ossify each group’s dominance in segments of software and web retailing? Read the rest of this entry »

Merger Approval of Google-Motorola Mobility and the Failure of FRAND

February 22, 2012

(by Bruce Lyons) The European Commission and US DoJ have approved a (mainly) vertical acquisition of Motorola Mobility (MM) by Google because the specific transaction would not lessen competition.  They did so with weary resignation that it is part of the patent arms race into which they will be drawn to adjudicate in the coming months and years.  The underlying problem is that ‘fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory’ (FRAND) royalty commitments are not fit for purpose as part of standard setting agreements.  Read the rest of this entry »