On 30 June 2022, the Commission announced in a press release that it is inviting feedback on the performance of the EU Regulations which lay out the procedures for the application of EU competition rules (Regulation 1/2003 and Regulation 773/2004). While the Commission’s enforcement action has adapted to evolving markets and new technologies, the procedural antitrust framework has remained largely the same for almost 20 years. As Margrethe Vestager, Executive Vice-President in charge of competition policy, said: “Effective enforcement of EU antitrust rules is crucial to ensure that markets perform at their best. For almost two decades, the current procedural antitrust regulations have served us well. But in light of the challenges brought about by the digitisation of our economy, there may well be certain areas where improvements are possible or needed. Now is the time to take stock of the gained experience to ensure that the current rules remain up to date.”
In addition to the announced public consultation, the evaluation will involve an expert survey in the framework of an external evaluation support study, one or more stakeholder workshops as well as a targeted consultation with national competition authorities. The results of the evaluation exercise will be summarized by the Commission in a Staff Working Document that is planned to be published in the second quarter of 2024.
On 20 June 2022, the European Commission opened a formal antitrust investigation to determine whether Vifor Pharma had restricted competition by illegaly discrediting its number one competitor in Europe in the intravenous iron treatment market, Pharmacosmos.  Vifor Pharma’s actions appear to have been aimed at hindering competition against its drug Ferinject. According to the press release, the Commission has evidence that Vifor Pharma has for many years discredited Monofer by disseminating misleading information about its safety. The Commission has concerns that Vifor Pharma may have conducted a misleading communications campaign directed primarily at healthcare professionals that may have inappropriately impeded the introduction of Monofer into the European Economic Area (“EEA”).
On 14 June 2022, the European Commission issued a press release stating that they carried out unannounced inspections on the premises of companies active in the construction of networks and treatment plants for drinking water and wastewater in several Member States.
On 10 June 2022, the European Commission issued a Statement of Objections to České dráhy and Österreichische Bundesbahnen over alleged collective boycott. The Commission notes provisionally that between 2012 and 2016, ČD and ÖBB engaged in a collective boycott to preserve their market position and impede RegioJet’s This was the case both in the Czech Republic and on the international rail link between Prague and Vienna.
The Commission’s preliminary view is that ČD and ÖBB have an agreement to prevent RegioJet from gaining access to ÖBB-used wagons for long-distance passenger transport. ČD and ÖBB coordinated their actions to boycott RegioJet from selling used ÖBB wagons in order to ensure that RegioJet could not acquire them.
On 17 May, the European Commission has started unannounced inspections at the premises of companies active in the fashion industry in several Member States. In addition, the Commission has sent official information requests to several companies in the fashion sector.
On 2 May 2022, the European Commission issued a Statement of Objections on the Apple and its practices regarding Apple Pay. The Statement includes the Commission’s preliminary view on whether Apple is abusing its dominant market position for mobile wallets on iOS devices.
The Statement of Objections confirms that Apple does indeed have a dominant market position in this respect. Because Apple only has access to the necessary NFC ‘tap and go’ technology for mobile wallets on iOS mobile devices they are limiting other competition. The result is less innovation and fewer choices in mobile wallets for consumers.
This Statement of Objections does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation into Apple’s practices regarding Apple Pay the Commission started on 16 June 2020.
On 6 July 2022, the CMA announced in a press release that it is investigating Amazon.com, Inc. (“Amazon”) over concerns that practices affecting sellers on its UK Marketplace may be anti-competitive. The CMA’s investigation will consider whether Amazon has a dominant position in the UK and whether it is abusing that position and distorting competition by giving an unfair advantage to its own retail business or sellers that use its services, compared to other third-party sellers on the Amazon UK Marketplace. More specific, the investigation concerns the way that non-public third-party seller data may be used within Amazon’s retail business, how Amazon sets criteria selecting which product offer is placed within the ‘Buy Box’ and which sellers can list products under Amazon’s ‘Prime label’ on its Marketplace in the UK. This investigation follows a current European Commission probe looking into similar concerns.
On 14 June 2022, the CAT rendered a judgment in the case between Meta Platforms, Inc. (“Meta”) and the Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”). In December 2021 Meta launched an appeal against the CMA’s decision that Meta’s acquisition of Giphy Inc. (“Giphy”) would lead to a substantial lessening of competition. Following an in-depth investigation, the CMA had found that Meta’s purchase of Giphy would reduce competition between social media platforms and had already removed Giphy as a potential challenger in the display advertising market in the UK. The CMA’s decision required Meta to sell Giphy to a purchaser approved by the CMA.
In its judgment on the case, the Tribunal upheld the CMA’s decision on 5 of the 6 challenged grounds. More specific, the Tribunal stated “we have no hesitation in concluding that the decision made by the CMA was one that it was entitled to make”. Thus was concluded that the merger between Meta and Giphy substantially reduced dynamic competition.
On 26 May 2022, the Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”) announced in a press release that it is investigating whether Google had broken the law by restricting competition in the digital advertising technology market. This is the CMA’s second investigation into Google’s practices in ad tech, previously the CMA started an investigation into Google and Meta’s “Jedi Blue” agreement. Both investigations concern Google’s advertising technology intermediation (“ad tech stack”): the complex set of services which facilitate the sale of online advertising space between sellers and buyers. Google has strong positions at various levels of the ad tech stack and charges fees to both sellers and buyers of online advertising space. The CMA examines key parts of the ad tech stack in which Google owns the largest service provider and assesses whether Google’s practices in these parts may distort competition.
Furthermore, there are concerns that Google illegally favours its own services, as Andrea Coscelli, CMA’s Chief Executive stated “We’re worried that Google may be using its position in ad tech to favour its own services to the detriment of its rivals, of its customers and ultimately of consumers.”
In June 2022, the Bundeskartellamt started an investigation into alleged anti-competitive conduct by Google on its Google Maps Platform. Through Google Maps, users can not only navigate, but also have access to the locations such as shops, restaurants and hotels. Yet, it is not possible to integration Google Maps with other map services. The German competition authority launched an investigation into this conduct, and will be examining whether the impossibility of combining Google Maps with alternative map services constitutes abusive conduct. In January 2022, the German competition authority marked Google as being of paramount significance for competition across markets, based on article 19a of the German Competition Act. Because of this, the German competition authority will have more competences in its research into Google Maps.