QuickLinks - Competition
Issue no. 292 - 23 November 2003
Issue no. 291 - 15 November 2003
- EU - Rivals want Microsoft punished
Microsoft's rivals claimed that the software company has a stranglehold on the digital media and server markets, and urged the European Commission to act. The plea came at the end of a three-day hearing in Brussels that Microsoft hopes will persuade the commission not to throw the book at it for allegedly abusing its dominant position in Europe. It has robustly defended its commercial behaviour. see also Microsoft, EU square off behind closed doors (Reuters), It's the Critics' Turn as Microsoft/EU Case Unwinds (Internet News), Windows of opportunity (Economist), Microsoft upbeat on EU hearings (BBC), Microsoft legal defense is familiar one to EU (New York Times), Microsoft to conclude defence in antitrust case (EurActiv.com) and Microsoft set for Brussels battle (BBC).
- UK - 'Inappropriate' BBC web services under fire
The managing director of the Telegraph Group has called for the BBC to scrap fantasy football, celebrity gossip and search engines from its internet services.And in a three-pronged attack on the BBC's burgeoning online activities, influential think tank the Institute for Public Policy Research said it was 'unacceptable' for the BBC services just to 'spring up' without any regulation. In a forthright assault on the BBC, Hugo Drayton, the former Telegraph internet boss who heads the British Internet Publishers' Alliance, accused the BBC of 'distorting the market' by providing a huge range of online content that does not necessarily fall within its public service remit.
Issue no. 289 - 26 October 2003
Issue no. 287 - 11 October 2003
- UK - ITV merger gets go ahead
The £4bn merger between Granada and Carlton TV, effectively creating a single ITV company, has been given the go-ahead by the government. Patricia Hewitt said a merged operation would mean a huge boost for TV in the UK, creating healthy competition for the BBC and a growing Sky TV with more money available for 'programming of high quality' in ITV, the nation's second oldest network after the BBC. However, Ms Hewitt did admit there would be some 'adverse' effects of the merged operation because it would account for more than 50% of the advertising market and some stringent conditions concerning advertising needed to allay advertisers' fears that the company would abuse its dominant position. see also DTI statement and Competition Commission report.
Issue no. 286 - 3 October 2003
- UK - Media call for BBC internet curbs
Commercial media companies are to ask the Government for tough restrictions to be placed on the BBC's internet activities, including a cost ceiling on its internet budget and a demand that it provide links to the news services of its competitors. Major media bodies including News International, IPC Media, the Commercial Radio Companies Association, Associated Newspapers and Guardian Newspapers, are to submit a response to Philip Graf, who is heading the Government's probe into the BBC's internet activities, within the next few weeks. Under the umbrella of the British Internet Providers Association, the groups are seeking to mount a response to a BBC-commissioned report by KPMG, which argued that the corporation was not damaging its rivals' internet services. Proposals sought by the companies include that BBC Online should be scaled back to being a 'news portal' and that it should release its internet source codes to commercial organisations.
Issue no. 285 - 28 September 2003
- DE - ARD plant Selbstverpflichtung zur Begrenzung von Online-Angeboten
Die ARD bereitet eine Selbstverpflichtung zur Beschränkung ihrer Online-Angebote vor. Das bestätigte ARD-Sprecher Martin Gartzke heute in Hamburg. Der Text befinde sich derzeit im Entwurfsstadium. Klar sei, dass in den Online-Angeboten 'auch künftig kein Platz für E-Commerce, Werbung und Sponsoring' sei. 'Beim Anzeigengeschäft wollen wir den Printmedien und kommerziellen Internet-Portalen keine Konkurrenz machen.'
Issue no. 284 - 21 September 2003
- EU - EC seeks to refine Microsoft antitrust remedies
European Commission experts have concluded that US software giant Microsoft violated EU antitrust rules, but their proposed remedies need refining to withstand court scrutiny, sources familiar with the case said. The experts have proposed two major requirements - making Microsoft share more proprietary information with its rivals, and uncoupling its Media Player audiovisual software from the ubiquitous Windows operating system, sources told Reuters.
- NL - $2.26bn Dutch telecom sell-off
The Dutch government has sold more than a third of its stake in struggling Dutch phone firm KPN for 2bn euros ($2.26bn; £1.4bn). 'There is no reason for the government to remain a minority stakeholder in KPN. We could sell more in the future,' a spokesman for the Dutch Finance Ministry said. It sold the 12% stake in KPN to US investment bank Citigroup, which has announced plans to sell on the 300 million shares. The state still owns 19.3% of KPN which it cannot legally sell for another 12 months.
Issue no. 283 - 14 September 2003
- DE - T-Online ordered to revive Overture deal
Overture Services has obtained a court injunction to restore its contract with T-Online, one of Europe's largest Web access providers. A German court ordered Deutsche Telekom, parent company of T-Online, to continue providing the commercial search provider's results on its T-Online Web sites.
- FR - France Telecom fined record 40 million euros for unfair charges
France's competition council has fined France Telecom a record 40 million euros (45 million dollars) after a decade-long investigation into the state operator's failure to sell its list of subscribers to rival companies at a lower price. The competition council found that France Telecom failed to obey numerous legal injunctions to make its subscriber list available more cheaply to operators starting up director inquiry and telephone information services. The fine is one of the biggest in the history of the competition council and was imposed after a mammoth legal process that was started back in 1992.
- Some insights into online competition
(New York Times)
The Internet has indeed spurred competition. But it has not led to uniformly low prices. In the book business, at least, Amazon has demonstrated that it is possible to build a large base of customers who will not bolt to the competition if you raise prices a little bit. Barnes and Noble, by contrast, caters to discount hunters with little loyalty to its particular service. (Customers at smaller sites are, if anything, even more price-sensitive.) Review of Price Competition Online: Amazon Versus Barnes And Noble, article in the June issue of Quantitative Marketing and Economics, by Professor Austan Goolsbee, an economist at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business and Professor Judith Chevalier, an economist at the Yale School of Management.
Issue no. 281 - 31 August 2003
- UK - Tories would close BBC website
The Conservative party would switch off a swath of the BBC's digital services, including its website and the youth channel BBC3, if it won the next general election. The party's culture spokesman, John Whittingdale, told Guardian Unlimited Politics he was 'not persuaded' of the case for a public service website and that he was 'not convinced the BBC needs to do all the things it is doing at the present', including providing 'more and more channels'. see also BBC news site facing extinction? (The Register).
Issue no. 280 - 24 August 2003
- UK - BBC online review launched
An official review of the BBC's online services will be conducted by former Trinity Mirror chief executive Philip Graf, the British government has announced. The review will weigh up whether the BBC has stuck to its original plans - approved by the government in 1998 - and what impact it has had on the commercial sector.
- UK - BSkyB chief launches attack on licence fee
The chief executive of BSkyB will fire a powerful missile at the vulnerable underbelly of the BBC, with a claim that most viewers oppose the licence fee and a call to raise a 'red flag' over the corporation's 'expansionary ambitions'. Tony Ball, one of Rupert Murdoch's key lieutenants in Britain, will unveil a survey showing that 51% of viewers believe the £116 annual fee does not represent good value for money. It is the first time that an opinion poll has shown such dissatisfaction with the BBC, and will fuel the debate about the corporation's method of funding in the run-up to the renewal of its charter, which sets its remit and method of funding.
- UK - Filesharers turn tables on music industry
Grokster, the US music-swapping network that came to prominence in the wake of Napster's collapse, has turned the tables on the major music labels by reporting them to the Office of Fair Trading. The site, which allows users to swap music tracks on a huge global network, claims record companies are guilty of 'unfair business practices and restraint of trade' by refusing to discuss ways in which they could legalise its service.
- US - FCC to Allow Video on AOL Messenger
The Federal Communications Commission has agreed to allow America Online to transmit video entertainment over its popular Instant Messenger system, ending a restriction imposed when it approved the merger of the online company with media giant Time Warner Communications in early 2001.
Issue no. 278 - 10 August 2003
- EU - Commission gives Microsoft last opportunity to comment before concluding its antitrust probe
The European Commission has given Microsoft a final opportunity to comment before it concludes its antitrust probe. The Commission has gathered additional evidence from a wide variety of consumers, suppliers and competitors. This evidence confirms the Commission's earlier finding that Microsoft is leveraging its dominant position from the PC into low-end servers and that Microsoft's tying of Windows Media Player to the Windows PC operating system weakens competition on the merits, stifles product innovation, and ultimately reduces consumer choice. The Commission also invites Microsoft to submit its comments on a series of remedies it intends to impose in order to bring the antitrust infringements it has identified to an end.
- UK - State funding for broadband 'may breach EU law
A pressure group lobbying for the roll out of high speed 'broadband' internet services across the UK has warned that £1bn of recently announced government spending for large broadband initiatives could breach European Union laws. Earlier this year the government announced that six companies, including BT Group and Telewest, were likely to be the main beneficiaries of £1bn earmarked for broadband projects following the publication of a shortlist of preferred suppliers. These companies were in a strong position to win the lion's share of the money to be distributed over the next five years."
- UK - TV deal sees return of Match of the Day
Match of the Day, considered by many football fans to be one of the great institutions of the game, is set to return to television screens after the BBC won the right to show highlights of Premier League matches. The Premier League could however face opposition from the European Commission, which had stated it did not want one broadcaster to have the rights to all live matches. Four packages of live matches were available to broadcasters. The BBC did not bid for rights to any live games. See also New EC red card for Sky (Observer).
Issue no. 277 - 30 July 2003
- Commission approves 3rd Generation mobile network sharing in Germany
The Commission has taken a favourable decision on 3rd Generation ("3G") mobile network sharing. This decision confirms that site sharing in itself does not raise competition concerns. The investigation has also confirmed that national roaming between licensed network operators benefits consumers by allowing the operators involved to offer better and quicker 3G coverage.
- EU - Commission appoints Chief Competition Economist
The European Commission has appointed Professor Lars-Hendrik Röller as the Chief Competition Economist in its Directorate-General for Competition. Professor Röller is expected to take up the post on 1st September. The Chief Economist will report directly to the Director General of Competition and have a dedicated staff of approximately 10 specialised economists.
- EU - Commission clears UEFA's new policy regarding the sale of the media rights to the Champions League
The European Commission has taken a final decision exempting the new joint selling arrangements of European soccer organisation UEFA for the media rights to the Champions League. The new policy will allow UEFA to continue selling the rights to its successful Champions League brand while bringing football within the reach of more broadcasters as well as Internet and telephone operators, and permitting clubs to market part of these rights individually. see also EU / DE - New marketing system for Bundesliga broadcasting rights and EC threat to Premier League TV soccer auction (Guardian).
- EU / FR - Commission fines Wanadoo for abuse of a dominant position
The Commission has adopted a decision against Wanadoo Interactive, a subsidiary of France Télécom, for abuse of a dominant position in the form of predatory pricing in ADSL-based Internet access services for the general public. The Commission found that, up to October 2002, the retail prices charged by Wanadoo were below cost. This practice restricted market entry and development potential for competitors, to the detriment of consumers, on a market which is key to the development of the information society. In view of the gravity of the abuse and the length of the period over which it was committed, the Commission is imposing a fine of EUR10,35 million.
- U.S. dissatisfied with Microsoft licenses
The U.S. Justice Department told a federal judge that Microsoft still hasn't fully complied with a key provision in its landmark antitrust settlement with the government. In a report to the judge, attorneys with the department said they 'remain concerned' about the price Microsoft plans to charge competitors to view the inner workings of the Windows program, a requirement under the antitrust settlement.
- UK - BBC defends internet operations
The BBC has submitted a robust defence of its online operations to the government ahead of an impending review, drawing on a report that claims its impact on commercial rivals amounts to just £4m a year. The BBC commissioned the independent research from KPMG to head off vociferous criticism from rivals that the corporation had crippled them by pouring resources into areas such as sport, entertainment and search engines that were already served by the commercial sector. But while conceding that the BBC website, the most popular in Britain, takes some users away from commercial rivals, the report suggests the impact on advertising revenues represents just £4m out of a total UK online market of £7.6bn. And it adds that the BBC may have boosted advertiser-funded sites by getting up to 2 million people to use the internet who would not have otherwise connected.
Issue no. 276 - 23 June 2003
- US - Rivals Say Microsoft Flouts Deal
Microsoft is trying to license key pieces of its technology at inflated rates and under onerous conditions, according to competitors who charge that the software giant is thwarting its antitrust settlement with the federal government. The actions are discouraging rivals from participating in the licensing program, which is an important element of the agreement that Microsoft struck with the Justice Department and several states 18 months ago.
- US - West Virginia drops Microsoft appeal
West Virginia will drop the state's appeal of the landmark Microsoft antitrust settlement, leaving Massachusetts as the final holdout pushing for stricter sanctions.
Issue no. 273 - 1 June 2003
- US - Microsoft to pay AOL $750 million
Microsoft is paying $750 million to AOL Time Warner as part of a wide-ranging settlement that also calls for the companies to jointly cooperate on software distribution and digital media. The companies will drop pending litigation, including an antitrust complaint filed by AOL Time Warner's Netscape Communications unit in January 2002 against Microsoft. AOL also agreed to a seven-year royalty-free license of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser.
Issue no. 272 - 24 May 2003
- EU - Commission approves TeliaSonera's proposed buyers for Com hem and Telia Mobile Finland
The European Commission has approved TeliaSonera's proposal to sell its Swedish cable TV business Com hem AB to EQT Partners AB and Telia Mobile Finland to Suomen 2G/DNA. The sale of the two businesses is the result of the conditions attached to last year's merger between the telecommunications operators of Sweden and Finland. The divestitures will ensure that consumers in Finland will continue to enjoy the benefits of competition in the market for third-generation (3G) mobile services and that Swedish consumers will benefit from increased competition in the market for fixed line telephony and Internet services.
- EU - Commission clears Internet hotel bookings JV between Accor, Hilton and Six Continents through WorldRes Europe
The European Commission has granted regulatory approval regarding a proposed joint venture between French hotel chain Accor, the British hotel chains Hilton and Six Continents and the American e-commerce company in the global lodging industry WorldRes.Com. The agreement will give joint control to all concerned of WorldRes.Europe, which will operate an Internet-based reservation system and travel agency websites. The deal does not give rise to any significant competition concerns.
- EU - Commission fines Deutsche Telekom for charging anti-competitive tariffs for access to its local networks
The European Commission has adopted a decision against Deutsche Telekom AG (DT) for abusing its dominant position through unfair prices for the provision of local access to its fixed telecommunications network (local loops). The Commission has found that DT charges new entrants higher fees for wholesale access to the local loop than what DT's subscribers pay for fixed line subscriptions. This discourages new companies from entering the market and reduces the choice of suppliers of telecoms services as well as price competition for consumers. The Commission's action stems from complaints by numerous new entrants in the German telecommunications market. In line with the gravity and duration of the abuse, the Commission levies a fine of € 12.6 million.
Issue no. 269 - 6 May 2003
- DE - ARD und ZDF Online: Übers Ziel hinausgeschossen?
Die ambitionierten Online-Engagements der öffentlich-rechtlichen Anbieter ARD und ZDF stoßen auf immer härteren Widerstand. Länderregierungen fordern von den Sendern eine Schlankheitskur, eine Staatsvertrags-Novelle soll Grenzen ziehen und die Lobby der Privatsender klagt in Brüssel.
- EU / UK - Commission approves 3rd Generation mobile network sharing in the United Kingdom
Site sharing in itself does not raise competition concerns. The Commission' investigation has furthermore revealed that national roaming between licensed network operators benefits consumers by allowing the operators involved to offer better and quicker coverage, especially in less built-up and more remote areas of the UK. It also helps the launch of innovative 3rd Generation ("3G") services. Roaming will not include the top ten cities in the UK but be limited to smaller cities and rural areas.
Issue no. 268 - 28 April 2003
- EU / DE - ZDF kritisiert EU-Klage der Privatfunker
Als "Schlag ins Gesicht der deutschen Medienpolitik" kritisiert ZDF-Intendant Markus Schächter die vom Interessensverband der privaten elektronischen Medien in Deutschland (VPRT) in Brüssel vorgetragene beihilferechtliche Beschwerde über das Online-Angebot von ARD und ZDF. Der Verband wolle mit dieser Beschwerde die ordnungspolitischen Rahmenbedingungen für den Rundfunk in Deutschland zu Gunsten der privaten Rundfunkveranstalter verändern, heißt es in einer Erklärung des ZDF. Sie ziele auf eine Senkung der Rundfunkgebühren, Änderung der Besteuerung und die Blockierung der Internet-Aktivitäten des öffentlich-rechtlichen Rundfunks ab.
Issue no. 267 - 21 April 2003
Issue no. 266 - 6 April 2003
- EU - Commission clears merger between Stream and Telepiù
The European Commission has cleared the proposed acquisition by Australian media group Newscorp of Italian pay-television company Telepiù from Vivendi Universal. Telepiú will be merged with Stream, the other pay-TV company in Italy, currently a 50/50 joint venture of Newscorp and Telecom Italia. Newscorp will hold control of the new company . Telecom Italia will hold a minority stake not exceeding 19,9%. The operation results in a near-monopoly in the Italian pay-TV market. But the Commission has taken the view that authorising the merger, subject to appropriate conditions, would be more beneficial to consumers than the disruption that would have been caused by the likely closure of Stream, the smaller and weaker of the two existing operators.
- US - AOL asks FCC to lift IM restriction
AOL Time Warner has submitted a petition asking to be excused from the instant messaging interoperability requirements imposed by the Federal Communications Commission. The petition asks the regulatory agency to remove a restriction forbidding America Online from offering video streaming through its popular instant messaging services.
Issue no. 258 - 2 February 2003
Issue no. 256 - 18 January 2003
- US - Trade groups barred in Microsoft appeal
A federal judge rejected a bid by tthe Software and Information Industry Association and the Computer and Communications Industry Association to appeal Microsoft's settlement deal with the government. She said they do not have the legal standing to step in and appeal the case to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. If they want to pursue the matter further, she said, they can file a private case against the company.
Issue no. 255 - 6 January 2003
- EU - Brussels acts over TV football rights in UK
Regulators in Brussels have taken another step to shake up Europe's market for football TV rights by taking action against the English Premier League. The European Commission's move is set to prompt the League's 20 clubs to change the way they sell rights for England's top competition. The Commission believes joint selling of the rights by the clubs "is tantamount to price-fixing" and could breach European competition rules.
- EU - Commission opens proceedings into joint selling of media rights to the English Premier League
The European Commission has sent a Statement of Objections to the English Football Association Premier League (FAPL) over the joint selling of the media rights to Premier League matches. Joint selling is tantamount to price-fixing, which could only be exempted if the restrictions of competition were strictly necessary to ensure the legitimate goals pursued by the arrangements for example solidarity among clubs - and if they resulted in benefits for other interested parties, in particular football fans. These same considerations have led the Commission in June to reach a preliminary positive view on the modified rules of UEFA for the joint selling of the media rights to the final stages of the Champions League.
- US - Trade groups appeal Microsoft settlement
Two computer industry trade groups will appeal an antitrust settlement with Microsoft that was endorsed by a federal judge. The Computer and Communications Industry Association and the Software and Information Industry Association said they had filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, announcing their intention to appeal.
Issue no. 253 - 8 December 2002
- US - Second state to fight Microsoft deal
West Virginia will join Massachusetts in appealing a judge's decision to endorse a settlement of the Microsoft antitrust case. The state will join the appeal because the settlement, negotiated between Microsoft and the U.S. Justice Department last year, does not go far enough to end all of Microsoft's illegal practices.
Issue no. 250 - 17 November 2002
- US - Comcast Wins FCC Approval to Buy AT&T Broadband
Cable operator Comcast has won approval from the U.S. Federal Communications Commission to buy rival AT&T Broadband for $30.5 billion, creating a pay television giant with about 27 million subscribers.
Issue no. 249 - 10 November 2002
Issue no. 247 - 19 October 2002
- EU - Commission clears one-stop agreements for the licensing of TV and radio music via the Internet
An antitrust exemption granted by the European Commission will introduce more competition for European television and radio companies, which simultaneously broadcast music shows on the Internet. Under the new rules, broadcasters can get a single 'one-stop shop' licence from royalty collecting agencies to cover Internet broadcasts across most of the 18-nation European Economic Area (EEA) replacing the old system where they need to secure a license from each national copyright administration and collecting societies. The new system will also boost competition among the societies that collect the royalties on behalf of the music industry notably in terms of the fees they charge. see Notice pursuant to Article 19(3) of Council Regulation No 17 ( 1 ) concerning an application for negative clearance or exemption under Article 81(3) of the EC Treaty (Case COMP/C2/38.014 IFPI ‚ Simulcasting). see also EU to boost Web music broadcasts (Reuters ).
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