Relaxing whilst doing Competition Law is not an Oxymoron

Archive for April 17th, 2012

Competition Press Clips (II)

with 2 comments

Some months ago we wrote a post explaining that some news stories are read differently from the perspective of an antitrust geek. Let’s continue with that series:

– In the above-mentioned post we reported on the use of novel anti-competitive practices in the US pizza market (remember the guy who planted live mice on competing pizza parlors?). That story was an illustration of how dirty  tough competition law can be when it comes to food (as I’m writing I keep on telling to myself: “don’t make an endive joke; don´t”, so: no endive joke here). But the economic downturn seems to have further complicated things. The New York Times recently published a brilliantly written and quite humorous piece on the origins and effects of the price war that is currently taking place in the streets of Manhattan. The article forecasts that we may even end up having free pizza.

– Few consumers would object to free pizza. We have a weird love for free stuff (Brussels is, btw, a great city for gratuity lovers: you could perfectly survive without spending a cent of food just by attending receptions and cocktails; there are people who qualify as professionals at doing this). But a recent Judgment from the 15th Chamber of the Paris Commercial Courts has confirmed once again that, although we like “free”, we don´t understand the competitive implications of free products/services. The Judgment in Bottin v Google -a great candidate to the 2012 worst antitrust law development prize- has completely ignored that providing a free service in one side of a two-sided market cannot be akin to predatory pricing, without at least considering pricing on the other side of the market. An unofficial English version of the Judgment has been generously issued for free by the association of complainants against Google iComp. Considering that other people provide transalations for a price, we hope iComp is not also fined for predatory practices because of this free translation! (In iComp’s defense, one could claim that there is also an obvious business motive underlying the provision of this free service.  But then a cynic could respond asking whether horizontal cooperation specifically aimed at hurting a specific undertaking -even through the use of legal actions- could not qualify as an illegal anticompetitive practice itself?). 😉

– Not only pizza makers and search engines face tough competition. BBC reports that a London-based minicab firm Addison-Lee has asked its drivers to drive in the “bus lanes” as a sign of protest against the rules that reserve the use of these lanes to licensed black taxis and buses. The company argues that  “the current bus lane legislation is anti-competitive and unfairly discriminates against the millions of passengers that use Addison Lee“. Drivers in Brussels must have objections to the legality of the whole traffic code; otherwise it’s impossible to understand why they drive the way they do.

– Nicolas’ piece on Credit Rating Agencies seems to have inspired some: As reported by mlex, asset managers have filed an antitrust complaint against Standard & Poors in Switzerland.

-And speaking of mlex (which, as we have said here before, does a terrific job and has almost turned into an essential facility for anyone in the business), we have just found out that one of their excellent writers, Lewis Crofts, does not only cover competition law issues for MLex but is also an accomplished novelist (click here for his personal website). His novel “The Pornographer of Vienna” tells the story of a painter who was famous for his sexually explicit depictions of the Viennese underworld. Those who read it will find some familiarity with the competition law world.

P.S. I really tried, but I just can’t help it: putting mice in competing pizza places is pretty bad, but putting endives on your rival’s pizzas would really be too much!

Written by Alfonso Lamadrid

17 April 2012 at 1:23 pm