It's not as though the European Union has typically needed much convincing to go after big corporations with antitrust suits, but just in case, Microsoft is trying to light a fire under European regulators' feet to zero in more aggressively on Google. As such, Microsoft filed a formal antitrust complaint in Europe against the sultan of search, alleging Google isn't playing fair by limiting access to some of its data from YouTube and other services, the L.A. Times reports.
"Suck it up, buttercup, you're going to have to defend your actions." The Supreme Court didn't word things that it way, but it might as well have when it refused to review a ruling that reinstated an antitrust lawsuit accusing major record labels of conspiring to fix song prices, Reuters reports.
The lawsuit, filed by a group of music buyers, alleges that several record companies (including EMI Group, Sony, Universal Music Group, and Warner) agreed to set a wholesale price floor of around 70 cents per song when competitors started to sell music online for lower prices.
In addition, the suit claims shenanigans on MusicNet and Pressplay, a pair of services the record labels started way back in 2001 to sell songs online.
"All defendants signed distribution agreements with MusicNet or Pressplay," the lawsuit contends. It goes on to say that the labels "sold music directly to consumers over the Internet through these joint ventures. Both the joint ventures and the (RIAA) provided a forum and means through which defendants could communicate about pricing, terms, and use restrictions. To obtain Internet Music from all major record labels, a consumer initially would have had to subscribe to both MusicNet and Pressplay at a cost of approximately $240 per year."
The case was dismissed in 2008, but an appeals court ruled that the federal judge involved erred in doing so, a decision upheld by Supreme Court justices refusing to review the case.
Intel’s $7.68 billion acquisition of computer security company McAfee is now one step closer to being completed having received the necessary regulatory approval from the Federal Trade Commission earlier this week. The Santa Clara-based chip maker is now awaiting European Commission’s approval so it can close the transaction, which it hopes to do in early 2011.
"The Federal Trade Commission has concluded its review of the proposed McAfee transaction and has cleared it. We are continuing to work with the staff at the European Commission as they continue their review," said Kevin Sellers, vice-president for investor relations, in a statement.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal report, the deal could come under heavy antitrust scrutiny after EU investigators expressed concerns about the deal in a preliminary review. Their main concern is that Intel’s plan to put security features directly in its chips could put McAfee’s rivals at a severe disadvantage.
What began as a preliminary investigation in Europe has just turned into a big headache for Google. The European Union has begun an official investigation into the search giant for alleged violations of Europe's antitrust laws. The investigation was spurred by complaints from competing search companies. Specifically, Google is accused of intentionally down ranking their results in both paid ads, and regular searches.
Europe is taking these allegations seriously because Google owns over 80% of the search market there. While some of the complainants are small vertical search companies, they believe Google is intentionally suppressing their results. For example, Google is accused of giving preferential placement of its own services in search results, and keeping competitors' results lower. They also claim that Google restricts where ads for these competitors can be placed.
If Google is found to have violated the law, the fines could be hefty. The penalty could be up to 10% of Google's global sales, which last year was $24 billion. A $2.4 billion fine would sting, even for Google.
The European Union is notorious for its heavy handed fines to mega corporations who run afoul of the law, so it's easy to see why Apple opted to reverse two policies that recently drew the regulatory agency's eye.
Apple came under scrutiny earlier this year over its iPhone warranty policy within the EU, along with mandates over what development tools and programs could be used to code Apple-compatible apps. But with Apple making amends to its iPhone warranty, the EU is giving the Cupertino company a pass.
"Following today's announcement, Apple is no longer enforcing the 'country of purchase' rule within the EU/EEA and has appointed independent Authorized Service Providers to offer cross-border iPhone warranty services in those Member States where Apple does not directly take charge of repairs," the EU said in a statement. "Earlier on this month, Apple also announced having removed restrictions previously introduced on the development tools used to create iPhone apps, restoring the use of third-party layers and so giving developers more flexibility."
Apple's policy reversals likely saved the company from hefty fines. In 2008, the EU nailed Microsoft with a then-record setting fine of $1.35 billion "for defying sanctions imposed for antitrust violations," and then set another record when the agency smacked Intel for $1.45 billion in 2009 on similar charges.
"Apple's response to our preliminary investigations shows that the Commission can use the competition rules to achieve swift results on the market with clear benefits for consumers, without the need to open formal proceedings," the EU added.
According to an announcement made by the US Justice Department today, six major tech companies - Apple, Intel, Google, Intuit, Pixar, and Adobe - have reached a settlement in an antitrust investigation. The case centered around an agreement that the companies had to not scoop up each other's employees. The Justice Department calls this "restrained competition" for employees.
Several of these companies had agreements not to "cold call" employees of the other company with job offers. Some, like Google and Intuit, decided not to make offers to the other's employees at all. The settlement "prohibits the companies from engaging in anticompetitive no solicitation agreements." The catch, this will only be in effect for five years. At which time we could go through this whole process again. Additionally, a Judge still must approve the deal.
The Justice Department indicated some of these anticompetitive arrangements went back at least five years. They further stated that this investigation was necessary as it reduced the ability of high tech workers to compete for jobs. It was effectively salary-fixing.
We all knew it was a distinct possibility that at some point that Google could be looking at a viable antitrust investigation. It's not clear if this is the day for it, but we do know that the Texas Attorney General is investigating the search giant to see if they are violating antitrust laws. At issue here is the accusation from some companies that Google is manipulating its paid search results in a way designed to disadvantage competitors.
Google has confirmed that the official investigation started in July, and more information would be coming soon. The companies known to have filed the complaint are three vertical search engines (meaning they provide categories to click through to filter results). They allege that Google is keeping them down because they perceive a threat.
None of the complaining companies are large enough for Google to pay attention to, let alone discriminate against. Still, you never know what an AG investigation will turn up.
The Federal Trade Commission and Intel have finally settled their antitrust dispute. Even though the parleys proved a bit more protracted than the FTC had originally anticipated – the original deadline had to be extended by two weeks, the settlement was reached with a bit of time to spare before the revised deadline (12:01 a.m. on Friday, August 6) could expire. Intel has lent its assent to provisions that will limit its ability to stifle competition, the FTC said in a release.
The settlement applies to CPUs, GPUs and chipsets and effectively disallows almost every anti-competitive practice the FTC attributed to the chip maker. For instance, Intel was accused of employing a carrot-and-stick policy while dealing with computer makers and stifling the competition in the process. But the terms of the settlement expressly prohibit the Santa Clara chip maker from “conditioning benefits to computer makers in exchange for their promise to buy chips from Intel exclusively or to refuse to buy chips from others; and retaliating against computer makers if they do business with non-Intel suppliers by withholding benefits from them.”
While the world's largest chip maker is not willing to view the settlement as an admission of guilt, it has agreed to adopt a very conciliatory approach towards rivals like AMD, Nvidia, and Via. The settlement requires Intel to support the “PCI Express Bus, for at least six years in a way that will not limit the performance of graphics processing chips.” It has also agreed to extend Via’s x86 licensing agreement by five years after the current one runs out in 2013.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has extended its deadline for settling an antitrust lawsuit against Intel. The deadline, which was due to expire on Friday, has been extended by a fortnight. The two parties now have until 12:01 a.m. on Friday, August 6 to reach a settlement through ongoing parleys.
FTC filed an antitrust lawsuit against Intel back in December, 2009, saying that the chip maker “engaged in a deliberate campaign to hamstring competitive threats to its monopoly.” It also alleged that the company influenced PC manufacturers by adopting a carrot-and-stick policy.
The concerned suit was filed just about a month after Intel agreed to settle all its antitrust and patent cross-licensing disputes with rival AMD. The settlement cost the Santa Clara chip maker a whopping $1.25 billion.
It's no secret the EU's European Commission likes to hit companies with large fines for anti-competitive behavior. A new measure called the Digital Agenda looks to redefine how the Commission determines who is abusing their market position. The new language no longer requires a company to have a "dominant" market position. Instead, a company need only be "significant" in the market.
Many are seeing this as a direct challenge to Apple's locked down iPhone platform. Commissioner Neelie Kroes recently said, " [A maker] cannot just choose to deny interoperability with their product." If the EU chooses to pursue a case against Apple, it could result in a hefty fine and possible changes in the way they do business in the EU.
We may see a future where Adobe Flash support is available on the iPhone. Apple has thus far refused to even consider supporting the Flash platform on their phone. Smaller players in the market, like Palm, may also have the option to sync with iTunes if the EU gets really up in arms. Even if this does come to pass, the EU would only be enforcing it in Europe. Other regions could see little change. Do you think the EU is planning to go after Apple?