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Global Tracker for Developments in Antitrust Enforcement and Competition Policies for the Tech Sector
USC Gould School of Law

This tech sector antitrust/competition tracker, run by the Center for Transnational Law and Business, provides recent news and developments in competition policy and antitrust enforcement specific to the tech sector in different regions around the world.

United States | Europe | Americas | Asia-Pacific

United States

Live Nation hires top antitrust lobbyist

January 20, 2023

Live Nation continues to grow its lobbying footprint after the entertainment and ticketing giant landed in the crosshairs of antitrust hawks, adding top antitrust lobbyist Seth Bloom to its stable of hired guns in Washington.

— Newly filed disclosures show Live Nation retained Bloom, the former longtime general counsel for the Senate’s antitrust subcommittee, days after the panel’s leaders announced plans for a hearing to examine competition in the ticketing industry. As PI noted earlier this week, Live Nation also retained Stewart Strategies and Solutions to lobby on regulatory and legislative issues related to the entertainment industry at the beginning of December.

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Epic and Match’s antitrust case against Google heads to jury trial on November 6

January 19, 2023

A date has been set for a trial by jury in a significant antitrust case against Google involving its alleged abuses of power in the Android app market. Fortnite maker Epic Games and dating app giant Match Group, joined by over three dozen state attorneys general, have accused Google of unfairly leveraging its market dominance and harming competition through its Google Play Store terms and practices. In particular, the plaintiffs take issue with the commissions Google requires on app sales and in-app purchases as well as the control Google has over Android app distribution in general. The case will now proceed to a jury trial on November 6, 2023, a judge in the Northern District of California has ruled.

Epic Games began its path to suing the app store giants, Apple and Google, back in 2020 when it introduced a direct payment option in Fortnite to its iOS and Android apps, prompting Apple and Google to boot the mobile game from their respective app stores.

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Rep. Ken Buck pushes Big Tech crackdown as GOP faces decision about antitrust agenda

January 17, 2023

Colorado Rep. Ken Buck is pushing Congress to pass legislation that will curb Big Tech companies’ power but is unsure whether he will remain the top Republican in charge of the House’s influential panel for antitrust policy.

Republican leaders’ decision about who will lead the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust subcommittee will be a key signal about whether the new GOP majority aims to crack down on Big Tech companies via new antitrust policy.

Mr. Buck, author of the new book “Crushed: Big Tech’s War on Free Speech,” sought to work with Democrats in the last Congress to pass bills restraining major tech platforms and is now working to convince Republicans to do likewise.

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Fresh off antitrust push, Klobuchar hits Silicon Valley to fundraise

January 17, 2023

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), one the chief architects of last year’s Senate push to rein in tech giants, is headed to Silicon Valley to raise money for her reelection tonight, according to an invite obtained by PI.

— Klobuchar is set to headline a fundraiser at the Palo Alto home of Sarah Sands, whose husband is venture capitalist Greg Sands. The event was organized by the Bay Area fundraising group Electing Women Bay Area, according to the invite.

— The Sandses are longtime Democratic donors who bundled at least $25,000 for Klobuchar’s 2020 presidential bid, according to an archived page on the campaign’s site. They also hosted fundraisers for Hillary Clinton in 2016 andJoe Biden in 2019. For Klobuchar, tonight’s fundraiser will take her onto the home turf of several of her top foes whose furious lobbying efforts last year sank the senator’s bipartisan antitrust push.

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Google and Meta Are Losing Their Grip on the Digital Ad Market

January 10, 2023

For more than a half-decade, Alphabet Inc. and Meta Platforms Inc. have ruled the digital advertising market—the money machine that funds the modern internet. They’ve collected more than half of all online ad dollars, year after year, to the point that competitors and regulators feared there would be no realistic way to break their hold.

This year the duo will have some of their biggest challenges yet, facing competition that’s fiercer and better-funded than it’s been in a decade. Alphabet and Meta are still trying to recover from a change in Apple Inc.’s privacy policy that crippled the effectiveness of their ads on iPhones.

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Coke and Pepsi targeted by FTC in price discrimination inquiry

January 10, 2023

Soft drink giants Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are reportedly facing a preliminary investigation by the Federal Trade Commission into whether they violated a law regulating pricing strategies.

The FTC, which has taken a much more aggressive stance toward big businesses under Chairwoman Lina Khan, is probing whether the two companies violated a law that bans suppliers from offering price cuts to major retailers such as Walmart and not offering the same to smaller competitors, Politico reported on Tuesday.

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Europe

Spotify joins media firms to urge EU action against Apple's 'unfair' practices

January 18, 2023

Music streaming service Spotify Technology, along with other media firms such as Deezer, urged the European Commission to act against Apple Inc for anticompetitive and unfair practices, in a joint industry letter on Wednesday.

The letter, addressed to the European Union antitrust regulator's Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, demanded the Commission to act fast for the welfare of European consumers.

Spotify has for years accused Apple of abusing its market position using its App Store rules to stifle competition.

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Microsoft's $69 Billion Activision Blizzard Deal Faces Antitrust Warning from EU, Resistance from Regulators and Industry Competitors

January 17, 2023

Microsoft (US:MSFT) will likely receive an E.U. antitrust warning about its $69 billion bid for Activision Blizzard, which could pose another challenge to completing the previously announced deal.

Reuters reported on Monday evening that The European Commission is preparing to send a charge sheet, known as a statement of objections, outlining its concerns about the deal to Microsoft in the coming weeks. The E.U. antitrust watchdog has set an April 11 deadline for its decision on the deal. Microsoft stated that they continue working with the European Commission to address any marketplace concerns and that their goal is to bring more games to more people.

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Microsoft faces EU antitrust warning over Activision deal

January 17, 2023

The EU is preparing what's called a "statement of objection." This is according to "Reuters." And essentially, what that means is they're going to be providing Microsoft with information on what they don't agree with, as far as the potential $69 billion Activision Blizzard acquisition. Now, that deal would give Microsoft the ability to produce and publish "Call of Duty" games, as well as games like "World of Warcraft," "Diablo."

"Call of Duty" made in a billion dollars in its first 10 days on the market recently. So it doesn't appear that they would end up taking it off the PlayStation platform. What Sony seems to really be concerned about is Microsoft's ability to put this in the cloud, and put it on its own cloud gaming platform, which is under its GamePass subscription service. Sony has its cloud gaming platform of its own. Microsoft's though, is just beating it out as far as overall offerings, and frankly, performance. So Sony's objecting to it from that perspective.

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Big European telecom operators seek EU antitrust clearance for online advertising bid

January 13, 2023

A group of telco heavyweights, including Deutsche Telecom, Orange, Telefonica and Vodafone, want to "offer a privacy-led, digital identification solution to support the digital marketing and advertising activities of brands and publishers," according to the official filing.

The initiative is an attempt by the telecom operators, who have been complaining about shrinking profit margins for the last decade, to move into the profitable online advertising market.

This market is currently highly concentrated in the hands of Big Tech companies like Google and Apple. This concentration might increase following the phase-out from third-party cookies in favour of an ad technology that could harm other actors in the advertising ecosystem.

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Google users not given sufficient choice over its data processing, says German antitrust watchdog

January 11, 2023

Bad news for Google in Germany — where the antitrust watchdog has issued a preliminary statement of objections over its data processing terms and said it’s currently planning to require the tech giant to provide users with more choice over what it does with their information.

The Bundeskartellamt, or Federal Cartel Office (FCO), has been investigating Google's T&Cs for processing user data since May 2021.

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TikTok in EU antitrust talks over ‘aggressive’ data harvesting

January 10, 2023

TikTok CEO Shou Zi Chew and the EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager discussed "aggressive" data harvesting and surveillance in the US on Tuesday, said the European Commission.

The short-video app, owned by Chinese technology conglomerate ByteDance, admitted last month that some of its staff accessed TikTok user data of two journalists improperly to identify the source of leaks to the media.

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Americas

Brazil's antitrust authority (CADE) opens full-blown investigations of Apple's App Store monopoly abuse further to complaints by Mercado Libre and Clique, regardless of low iPhone market share

January 19, 2023

Brazil is becoming an increasingly important jurisdiction for competition as well as patent enforcement. In October, Brazil's competition authority--Conselho Administrativo de Defesa Econômica (CADE), which translates as Administrative Council for Economic Defense--rendered a well-considered decision clearing Microsoft's acquisition of Activision Blizzard. Earlier this week, IAM's Adam Houldsworth pointed out that Ericsson was on the winning track against Apple in Brazil, with a key decision by Brazil's top court shortly before the December 2022 settlement (paywalled article). I've obtained some documents and will analyze them in the days ahead.

The latest news is that CADE yesterday opened formal investigations of Apple's alleged abuse of its iOS app distribution (and in-app payments) monopoly further to complaints by Latin America's e-commerce giant Mercado Libre and another complainant named Clique. Mercado Libre is the Amazon on the continent of the Amazon river: the leading regional ecommerce company.

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MercadoLibre Files Complaint Against Apple in Brazil, Mexico

December 5, 2022

Latin American e-commerce and fintech firm MercadoLibre Inc. has filed a complaint with antitrust regulators in its largest markets of Brazil and Mexico against Apple Inc., claiming that the US tech firm has broken anticompetitive practices.

MercadoLibre alleges that Apple is violating anti-competitive practices by prohibiting third-parties from distributing digital goods on iOS apps, Head of Antitrust Paolo Benedetti said in an interview. In addition to hurting developers, that policy also leads to higher prices due to the large commissions that Apple charges, he said.

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Asia

India’s top court rejects Google plea to block Android antitrust ruling in major blow

January 19, 2023

Google has been dealt a significant blow in one of its key overseas markets. India’s Supreme Court on Thursday declined to block an antitrust order that requires the Android-maker to make a series of changes that could topple its financial viability.

India’s apex court rejected to block the ruling against Google by the nation’s antitrust watchdog Competition Commission of India. The court extended the deadline for enforcement of CCI’s order by one week, however.

The matter will now go back to the country’s appellate tribunal, the National Company Law Appellate Tribunal (NCLAT), where Google previously failed to secure any relief. The Supreme Court has directed NCLAT to make its decision by March 31. The challenge for Google is that unless NCLAT reaches a decision in Google’s favor by this month, the tech giant will have to make a series of changes to Android.

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Didi’s relaunch of user sign-ups bodes well for its ride-hailing business, but regulatory scrutiny persists after tech crackdown

January 17, 2023

Didi Chuxing’s resumption of new user registrations augurs well for the Chinese ride-hailing giant’s business outlook this year, even as it faces rival services that have gained a larger foothold during its 18-month hiatus, according to analysts.

The Beijing-based company said on Monday that it was immediately resuming new user sign-ups with the approval of the cybersecurity regulator, ending a ban that started in July 2021. Its main app will soon become available on China’s app stores again, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The progress “undoubtedly sets a good start for [Didi’s] development this year”, said Liu Ying, an analyst from market intelligence Analysys.

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Google challenges Android antitrust ruling in India's Supreme Court

January 7, 2023

Google has filed a legal challenge in India's Supreme Court to block a ruling by the country's antitrust watchdog that will force the U.S. company to change how it markets its Android platform, court records showed on Saturday.

The Competition Commission of India (CCI) in October fined the Alphabet Inc unit $161 million for exploiting its dominant position in the market for Android, which powers 97% of smartphones in India and is a key growth region for the U.S. giant.

The challenge comes after Google suffered a setback on Wednesday when an appeals tribunal rejected its request to block the antitrust ruling. The company argued that implementation of the CCI's directives will hurt its long-standing business model and consumer interests.

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