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Dublin 21st March – CCPC Blocks daa Car Park Acquisition.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) announced that it has blocked the proposed acquisition by Dublin Airport operator, daa, of a car park near the Airport due to concerns that the deal would lead to higher prices and lower service quality for consumers.

Daa had proposed to buy a car park located on the Swords Road in Santry from Mr Gerard Gannon. A QuickPark-branded car park had operated on the site before closing in September 2020 during the Covid-19 pandemic. Daa currently owns and operates all other large car parks serving Dublin Airport.

CCPC Chairperson, Brian McHugh, stated

“Our investigation found that this deal would eliminate daa’s only significant competitor for public car parking serving Dublin Airport and result in daa essentially having a near monopoly. This would be likely to lead to higher prices for consumers because daa would not have to compete to win car parking customers.”

The CCPC decision is hardly surprising as the proposed acquisition would have given daa a virtual monopoly on car parking at Dublin Airport with no prospect of entry. The outcome will be good for consumers assuming someone else now acquires and re-opens the car park. According to media reports, daa had offered to sell off one third of the spaces at the car park to a third party but it is difficult to see how this could have addressed the competition problems.

Brussels 4th March – EU Commission Fines Apple More Than €1.8 Billion for Abusing a Dominant Position.

The EU Commission has fined Apple over €1.8 billion for abusing its dominant position on the market for the distribution of music streaming apps to iPhone and iPad (“IOS”) users through its App Store. The Commission found that Apple applied restrictions on app developers preventing them from informing iOS users about alternative and cheaper music subscription services available outside of the app (‘anti-steering provisions’). According to the Commission, Apple is currently the sole provider of an App Store where developers can distribute their apps to iOS users throughout the European Economic Area (‘EEA’). Apple controls every aspect of the iOS user experience and sets the terms and conditions that developers need to abide by to be present on the App Store and be able to reach iOS users in the EEA. The Commission’s investigation found that Apple bans music streaming app developers from fully informing iOS users about alternative and cheaper music subscription services available outside of the app and from providing any instructions about how to subscribe to such offers. The Commission indicated that Apple’s conduct, which lasted for almost ten years, may have led many iOS users to pay significantly higher prices for music streaming subscriptions because of the high commission fee imposed by Apple on developers and passed on to consumers in the form of higher subscription prices for the same service on the Apple App Store. Moreover, Apple’s anti-steering provisions led to non-monetary harm in the form of a degraded user experience: iOS users either had to engage in a cumbersome search before they found their way to relevant offers outside the app, or they never subscribed to any service because they did not find the right one on their own.

Dublin 26th February – CCPC Searches Home Alarm Businesses.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) announced that it has carried out a number of searches of businesses active in the home alarm industry. According to the CCPC, the searches form part of an on-going criminal investigation into potential breaches of competition law. Authorised Officers from the CCPC were supported by colleagues from the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau and An Garda Síochána. The CCPC previously announced on December 8th that it had conducted searches of businesses as part of a separate investigation of firms in the “publicly funded transport sector”. Together these operations suggest a ramping up in the CCPC’s enforcement activity.

Dublin 2nd February – CCPC Declares Merger Notification Invalid.

The Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has deemed the Lloyds Pharmacy/McCabes Pharmacy merger notification to be invalid on the grounds that the parties had failed to comply with a request for information (RFI) issued to them by the CCPC. Section 18(2) of the Competition (Amendment) Act, 2022, provides that a merger notification shall not be valid where the CCPC is of the opinion that all of the information requested in an RFI has not been provided. The Act provides that the CCPC must notify parties whether or not it is satisfied that the RFI has been complied with within ten working days of receipt of their responses. This is the first time that a merger notification has been deemed invalid on the grounds that the CCPC is not satisfied information sought in an RFI has been provided.

Brussels 25th January – Statement of Objections Issued in Alleged Farmed Salmon Cartel.

The EU Commission has informed six Norwegian salmon producers of its preliminary view that they breached EU competition rules by colluding to distort competition in the market for spot sales of Norwegian farmed Atlantic salmon in the EU. The Commission stated that it had concerns that, between 2011 and 2019, the six had exchanged commercially sensitive information relating to sales prices, available volumes, sales volumes, production volumes and production capacities, as well as other price-setting factors.

Brussels 24th January – EU Commission Moves IAG/Air Europa Merger to Phase 2.

The EU Commission has opened an in-depth investigation into the proposed acquisition of Air Europa by IAG. The Commission stated that it had preliminary concerns that the transaction may reduce competition in the market for passenger air transport services on several domestic, short-haul and long-haul routes in and out of Spain. This follows an announcement by the Commission on the previous day that it had opened an in-depth investigation into the proposed acquisition by Lufthansa of joint control of Italian airline ITA.

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