Competition Newsletter April 2019

Author:Ms Emmanuelle van den Broucke and Alexia Delaunay

Competition law news is marked by numerous investigations and sanctions against GAFA (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple) illustrating the European competition authorities' increasing concern to monitor the behavior of these internet giants efficiently. The size and market power acquired by these companies has made it indispensable to analyze their practices, in particular under the lens of the prohibition of abuses of a dominant position.

This is the case, for example, of Google that was fined €1.49 billion last March for abuse of its dominant position on the online advertising market (AdSense) after imposing exclusivity clauses in the agreements entered into with third party web sites, preventing its competitors from placing their advertisements on these sites. This sanction is already the third imposed on this operator by the Commission after the fines relating to Google Shopping and Android, totaling to date more than €8 billion for the European Union alone. Moreover, Google is currently the subject of an action for damages brought by Idealo following the Google Shopping decision.

The European Commission also has Apple in its sights since Spotify filed a formal complaint last March regarding the rules of its application App store that allegedly favors its own applications compared to those of third parties. Apple is also being investigated in the Netherlands for the same reasons.

Facebook, for its part, has been the subject of injunctions handed down by the Bundeskartellamt relating to the combined use of its users' data, practices contrary to the regulations on personal data that may constitute an abuse of dominance under German law. Commissioner Vestager recently declared that the search engines or social networks that do not respect personal data protection could be considered as breaching the European competition rules.

Finally, Amazon - until now relatively sheltered - has been the subject of several investigations by the European Commission and the Austrian and German authorities for having allegedly used the data collected on its marketplace in order to favor its products to the detriment of those of third party merchants.

In parallel to these decisions and investigations, the national competition authorities (in particular French and German) and the European Commission are multiplying ideas to adapt the reasoning previously used to the specificities of the digital markets.

A report entitledCompetition Policy for the digital area...

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