Antitrust

U.S. Antitrust officials set to sue Qualcomm over licensing practices

19 January 2017: Officials in the U.S. are readying themselves to sue Qualcomm Inc. for using unfair practices in the way it licenses its technology.

Qualcomm, the biggest maker of semiconductors for mobile phones, disclosed in 2014 that the Federal Trade Commission was investigating its licensing practices and said an enforcement action could lead to a fine or changes to its business, Bloomberg reports.

The suit waiting to be filed in the U.S., would be yet another regulatory challenge to Qualcomm’s most profitable business, technology licensing.

These lawsuits have the potential have a serious impact on the chipmaker, which makes most of its profits from selling the rights to use patents that are essential to all modern mobile phone systems.

Qualcomm has argued that its licensing follows industry standards that have been in place for more than 20 years and are used by other companies.

Last month, South Korea, home to two of its largest customers, fined the company 1.03 trillion won (£696 million) and described its practices as monopolistic. The San Diego-based company said it will appeal that decision. Qualcomm is also the subject of investigations by the European Union and Taiwanese authorities.

Russia set to charge Google over antitrust ruling

25 November 2016: According to the RT, Google will face a $15,000 administrative penalty from Russia’s Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS) if it fails to comply with a regulatory instruction and pay the original $6.8m penalty for the violation. The additional fine will added if the company fails to comply with the initial ruling by November 28th.

According to the FAS, Google has abused its dominant market position by making it difficult for Android customers to use third-party software on devices. In August, the antitrust watchdog ordered Google to end the practice and fined them $6.8m.

EU’s Android Antitrust Complaints are Contrived

20 November 2016: A recent article published by WIRED offers an interesting opinion on the EU’s antitrust complaints over Google’s Android services.

Geoffrey Manne, researcher and WIRED contributor suggests that the EC’s objections to Google’s Android services are rooted in an outdated understanding of marketplace dynamics. Manne suggests that “in the broader messier markets of the real world, the way Google licenses its apps to run on Android has none of the anti-competitive significance the [EU] commission claims.”

Manne draws upon the example WhatsApp provides, commenting that “consumers today are far more capable and informed digital participants than ever before”. His argument is that if WhatsApp, a Facebook owned company is thriving on Google’s Android platform, despite the existence of Google Hangouts and Google+, the company’s stifling of rival services can’t be particularly significant.

Manne’s argument opposes the EU’s objections to Google’s android services, although doesn’t mention the other cases raised against the search giant.

Sundar Pichai to meet Margarethe Vestager for antitrust talks

As tension between search giant behemoth Alphabet’s Google and the EU commission mounts, the tech company have announced plans for a meeting between their CEO, Sundar Pichai, and the EU’s antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager.

The Silicon Valley based company announced the meeting just a week after it filed its latest response to the EU’s barrage of antitrust cases reports Sam Schechner at the Wall Street Journal.

A spokeswoman for the European Commission has confirmed the meeting and said that it would cover antitrust issues. The face-to-face discussion is the first between the Google CEO and Ms Vestager since February.

Experts have suggested that Google may seek to settle some of the cases raised against them, however neither side has said whether the tech company might try to do so.

This meeting between between the Google chief and EU regulatory body does however provide Google with some respite, albeit momentarily, as the organisation analyses its options and assesses its next best move.

Google given seat on Trump Administration’s transition team

The success of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has created some musical chairs for key positions within the US government and has opened the door for a number of big businesses to influence decisions made by the new Trump establishment.

One of these major businesses, The Intercept reports, is Google, whose researcher Joshua Wright has been put in charge of the Federal Trade Commission following his Google-supported academic work.

Following Wright’s recent comments that “a high level of concentration in an industry simply does not mean the industry lacks competition”, David Dayen at The Intercept suggests that this only serves to clarify ‘to some extent how a Trump administration will operate on antitrust policy”.

Dayen writes that while “Google is currently facing antitrust allegations in Europe [and that] in May, Politico reported that the FTC planned to take a second look at Google’s search bias three years after they closed an investigation”, the implementation of someone who has twice been on the Google payroll hiring for the new Administration “may halt any new investigation at the FTC”.

Russia targets Microsoft Windows 10 with Antitrust probe

11 November 2016: According to The Register, the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service (commonly known as the FAS), is investigating whether Microsoft abused its position in the market with Windows 10. The probe was levelled following Moscow-based founder Eugene Kapersky’s complaint to the watchdog and EU regulators, which argued that Microsoft deliberately used Windows 10 to close-off the market for third-party app makers.

Kapersky argues that due to the decrease in the amount of time given for compatibility testing with the new operating system (OS), Windows 10 users are being warned by the system to only use Microsoft applications, or those from partner stores.

Google responds to EU Antitrust charges on Android

11 November 2016: The Wall Street Journal reports that Alphabet, “snowed under by formal antitrust charges levelled at three different areas of its business”, may be increasingly tempted to reopen negotiations with the European Union’s authorities to try and settle the cases.

Under fire from the European Union’s competition authority, Google released its response to the third set of formal charges issues by the EC. Google’s statement refuted the allegation that they had abused the search engine’s dominance.

Google’s general counsel Kent Walker is reported to have stated that “Android hasn’t hurt competition [but has] expanded it”.

A number of other companies have also come under fire in recent weeks over their abuse of dominance in marketplaces, Amazon among them.

Google formally responds to EU antitrust charge

Alphabet Inc.’s Google has formally responded to European Union accusations that it abuses its dominant position with its internet shopping and advertising services, ramping up its fight back against the bloc’s regulators.

The Wall Street Journal reports that Google is digging its heels in against the bloc’s accusations that it abuses its dominance and has shut out rivals in various markets with a number of its products.

The EU’s antitrust charges potentially expose Google to billions of euros in fines and demands that overhaul its operations at a time when the Silicon Valley giant is also grappling with a barrage of other legal fights in Europe.

ProtonMail: How Google almost put us out of business

Google accused of downgrading secure email provider, ProtonMail in its search results, causing a 25 per cent drop in its income, according to CEO Andy Yen.

Yen said that in spite of ProtonMail’s growing profile and an increased interest in encrypted email in general, the company’s search positioning had dropped inexplicably in Google’s page rankings, making it virtually invisible to people looking for secure email providers. The company consulted a number of SEO experts who could find nothing amiss, and no obvious reason why Google should punish the firm, Computing’s John Leonard reports.

Deadline extended for Google to respond to EU’s AdSense complaint

On the 24th October, Reuters reported that Alphabet unit, Google, has been given an extra week to formally respond to allegations by the European Commission that it was blocking rivals in online search advertising, a move likely to delay a regulatory decision on the case until next year.

The deadline has been extended to Nov. 3 from Oct. 26, European Commission spokesman Ricardo Cardoso said, making it the second extension the tech giants have been allowed.

Deadlines for Google to respond to the first charge that it favours its own shopping service over those of rivals and a second accusation that it abuses the dominance of its Android operating system for phones to squeeze out rivals remain unchanged at Nov. 7 and Oct. 31 respectively.

Both deadlines have been extended several times. Google has previously denied any wrongdoing.

Intel Wins latest round in battle over $1.17 Billion EU Fine

Intel Corp.’s fight to overturn a record 1.06 billion-euro ($1.17 billion) European Union antitrust fine received a boost from an adviser to the bloc’s top court in a case that could have ramifications for a growing list of disputes involving U.S. tech giants from Google to Apple Inc.

Bloomberg’s Stephanie Bodoni and Aofie White report that according to advocate General Nils Wahl of the EU Court of Justice, Intel’s appeal should be re-examined by a lower court, which blundered by ruling against the company’s system of rebates for PC makers using its chips. The top court will decide whether to back his views in a ruling expected within about six months.

“If the court follows, this could be the most important ruling of the past 25 years because it’s the complete destruction of the judgment of the General Court but also of the European Commission’s position,” said Damien Geradin, a lawyer at EDGE Legal in Brussels.

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