Anna Wu Hung-yuk has been appointed as the first chairperson of Hong Kong’s Competition Commission. For more information see here.
The ICN’s 12th Annual Conference concluded on Friday. We thank the gracious hosts at Poland’s UOKiK for a phenomenally successful conference in Warsaw. The press release is available here, and the conference materials are available here.
Steering Group Chair Pérez Motta’s closing speech is available here.
Conference Countdown: 14 days
International Competition Network
The Conference is just 2 weeks away! If you have any questions, please see the online
Working Groups Profile, Part 1
ICN’s core work occurs in its project-oriented working groups. Interested members and non-governmental advisors come together to develop specific project proposals, share experiences, discuss issues important to competition policy and enforcement, and ultimately produce work product. Annual conferences have traditionally served as a forum for presentation and discussion of working group achievements. This update highlights the conference sessions offered by the ICN’s Advocacy and Agency Effectiveness Working Groups.
Advocacy Working Group
The Advocacy Working Group session takes place on Day 1 of the conference. The mission of the Advocacy Working Group (AWG) is to improve the effectiveness of ICN members’ advocacy activities in advancing the adoption of competition principles in government and promoting the development of a competition culture within society.
Wednesday, April 24 (Day 1)
14:15 AWG Plenary panel: Competition Advocacy and Reform
15:15 Advocacy-related breakouts
The AWG breakout discussions will address:
- Explaining the benefits of competition. The AWG project on Explaining the Benefits of Competition seeks to provide ICN members with knowledge of, and strategies and arguments for explaining the benefits of competition in support of their competition advocacy efforts with governmental and non-governmental stakeholders.
- Promoting competition culture. The Competition Culture Project seeks to define competition culture, and learn how members interact with the constituent parts of a competition culture and what role each constituent plays or potentially could play.
- The ICN as an advocate. The ICN’s Steering Group Chair, Eduardo Perez Motta, leads an ICN effort to increase the visibility of competition policy by supplementing local efforts by its members to place competition issues on the agenda of national and international (regional or global) organizations and fora. Work such as the AWG’s Competition Assessment Project aims to link competition concerns with existing policy goals and providing concrete, comprehensible, and implementable guidance on general principles for competition-friendly policy formulation.
Agency Effectivness Working Group
The Agency Effectiveness Working Group (AEWG) session takes place on Day 2 of the conference. The AEWG’s work examines a variety of factors that affect how competition agencies achieve their objectives in an efficient and effective way, including strategy, planning, operations, and investigative tools and procedures.
Thursday, April 25 (Day 2)
8:00 Optional Breakout: ICN’s Curriculum Project
The mission of the Curriculum Project is to create training modules, consisting of video lectures and accompanying materials from a diverse group of international academics and practitioners, to provide an on-line educational center for competition authorities from around the world. In 2012-13, the Curriculum Project team developed new modules on planning an investigation, competition advocacy within government, and challenges faced by competition agencies in developing countries. Join this optional breakout for a discussion of the future direction of the project.
9:00 AEWG Plenary panel: Competition Agency Investigative Process
10:00 & 15:00 Agency Effectiveness breakouts
The AEWG breakout discussions will address:
- Investigative Process. In 2012, the AEWG began a multi-year project on competition agencies’ investigative processes. The Investigative Process Project seeks to provide a forum for members to discuss how they conduct investigations, with a view to improving the effectiveness of agency processes and decision-making.
- Human Resources management at competition agencies. ICN’s human resources-related work focuses on an area of paramount importance to the success of any competition agency: the quality and effectiveness of its people.
- Knowledge management at competition agencies. ICN’s knowledge management work examines the various ways in which competition agencies manage institutional knowledge, including a variety of activities, processes, and technologies.
Friday, April 26 (Day 3)
12:30 Breakouts: Working Group meetings
Each Working Group will hold its first meeting of the 2013-2014 ICN year on Day 3. Join the AWG or AEWG – or any one of the featured ICN working groups – in a breakout room to learn more about the working group’s plans and how to get involved.
The Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) was officially launched on April 1, 2013. The ACM replaces the Independent Authority for Postal and Telecommunications regulation, the Netherlands Consumer Authority, and the Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa). Visit the ACM’s new website at www.acm.nl.
Competition and competition policy can contribute to growth, an improved innovation climate and increased quality and efficiency within the public sector. This emerges from a joint report by the Nordic competition authorities. The Nordic report ‘A Vision for Competition – Competition Policy towards 2020’ includes a comparison between competition policy, legal instruments and implementation of competition rules among the Nordic countries.
You are welcome!
The conference hosts at the Polish Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKIK) and the ICN’s Annual Conference Planning Committee have designed new and innovative aspects for this year’s conference agenda. This update highlights the host’s showcase programs and the “Welcome Track” of optional breakouts.
Host Showcase Programs
Day 1 of the conference will showcase the UOKIK’s tremendous efforts in organizing this year’s conference and its commitment to presenting engaging topics for debate and discussion.
Wednesday, April 24 (Day 1)
9:30 a.m. Welcoming addresses
- Bronisław Komorowski, President of the Republic of Poland
- Małgorzata Krasnodębska-Tomkiel, President of the UOKIK
- Eduardo Pérez Motta, ICN Chair, President of the Mexican Federal Competition Commission
10:00 a.m. Opening Session: Competition at the top of the global agenda – the road to economic welfare?
Following the conference’s welcoming addresses, this plenary session will explore the provocative and timely issue of competition’s place in broader economic and political policy debates. This distinguished panel includes Jerzy Buzek, Former Prime Minister of Poland, and representatives from the World Bank and World Trade Organization.
12:00 p.m. Special Project Plenary: Working with Courts and Judges
The UOKIK leads a special project for this year’s conference on competition agency interaction with courts and judges. As part of the project, ICN member agencies were surveyed for input. The themes arising from the survey will be discussed by a distinguished panel moderated by UOKIK’s President. Following the plenary, discussion of the topics will continue during breakout sessions dedicated to the presentation of agency decisions in courtrooms and dialogue with courts and judges.
Thursday, April 25 (Day 2)
4:45 p.m. Regional Panel: Supporting Competition in Developing Countries (Eastern/Southeastern Europe) (optional breakout)
The UOKIK also have organized a panel highlighting regional experiences from eastern and southeastern Europe. This optional breakout occurs on Day 2.
The Welcome Track
The Welcome Track is a three-part series of optional breakouts that will introduce key aspects of the ICN, how it works, and how to get involved.
Wednesday, April 24 (Day 1)
8 a.m. Welcome Track Session 1: An ICN-troduction (optional breakout)
Start this year’s conference off early with an optional breakout before the welcoming addresses begin at 9:30am. Intended for those new to the ICN, this session will provide a basic overview of what the ICN is and what it does. If you are looking for a way to learn about the ICN and get more involved in its work, there is no better starting point than the ICN-troduction.
Thursday, April 25 (Day 2)
8 a.m. Welcome Track Session 2: NGA engagement (optional breakout)
The ICN is enriched by the participation of its non-governmental advisors or “NGAs,” including private practitioners, academics, representatives of international organizations, and industry and consumer groups. Come to this session to discuss how member agencies engage NGAs and how NGAs participate in the ICN’s work. The discussion will address two aspects: 1) fostering cooperation between academics and ICN members and 2) the benefits of interaction between competition authorities and the private sector.
Friday, April 26 (Day 3)
12 p.m. Welcome Track Session 3: Meet the Working Groups (optional breakout)
Don’t leave Warsaw without a full understanding of the work planned for the 2013-2014 ICN year and opportunities for participation. Grab a coffee and use the conference’s final break to meet the ICN Working Group Chairs in an informal context to ask questions about their plans for future work and discuss ways to get more involved. The conversation will continue at 12:30 with each Working Group holding meeting to solicit member input on work plans, feedback on the group’s work product and implementation efforts. Whether your interests are competition advocacy, agency effectiveness, cartels, mergers, and/or unilateral conduct, there is something for you in the ICN’s work plans. Find it before you leave Warsaw!
Conference Countdown: 35 days
International Competition Network
Calling all Economists: Register Your Attendance at the ICN Annual Conference
The ICN is exploring ways to increase economists’ engagement in the ICN. Deepening and expanding economists’ participation is thought to enhance the quality of ICN work products and provide further catalyst for convergence. All ICN members are invited to the 2013 ICN Annual Conference (“Annual Conference”) in Warsaw, April 23-26, and are encouraged to invite their chief or senior economists to attend. This year, more than ever, there will be programming of particular interest to economists. Don’t delay as the deadline to register to attend the Annual Conference is March 25, 2013.
Thursday, April 25
10 a.m. The Role of Economics and Economic Evidence in Merger Analysis
This year’s Merger Working Group’s (“MWG”) plenary session will be an interactive discussion of provocative statements on hot policy issues raised by the use of economic analysis in merger review by antitrust agencies. For instance, what weight should be given to empirical analysis in merger review? How can agencies make econometric analysis more predictable and transparent? How can economics help agencies in planning and shaping all the stages of a merger investigation with the aim of identifying and preventing mergers that raise competition concerns and eliminating from consideration as quickly as possible those mergers that do not?
11:30 a.m. Evaluation of Economic Evidence in Merger Review
Following the plenary session, discussion among economists will continue during a breakout session dedicated to the “Evaluation of Economic Evidence in Merger Review”.
A thorough economic investigation typically leaves the economists of antitrust agencies with a large set of evidence to which they will have to assign different weights based on their importance, reliability and coherence. Economists will discuss the current practices and the different approaches to the development of economic evidence, and they will debate on whether there is a common standard of evaluation of these evidence.
Discussions of both plenary and breakout sessions will be based on the main MWG’s output of this year: the updated Chapter 4 of the ICN Investigative Techniques Handbook for Merger Review on “The Role of Economics and Economic Evidence in Merger Analysis”. The MWG has brought together economists from different agencies to draft Chapter 4 with the aim of identifying and explaining common practices in economic analysis in merger review in a useful manner for both economist and non-economist merger case handlers.
2 p.m. Exclusive Dealing – Key Issues
The Unilateral Conduct Working Group’s (“UCWG”) plenary will see an interactive discussion of provocative statements designed to probe the role of economic analysis in evaluating exclusive dealing arrangements. The panel has been designed to encourage a frank debate on the extent of commonality or divergence in economists’ and lawyers’ approaches to exclusive dealing arrangements.
What are the key factors to take into account when making an economic analysis of exclusive dealing arrangements? Is there ever a case to be made for creating presumptive illegalities? The plenary will additionally tie in closely to the Working Group’s subsequent break-out sessions, by considering the role of contradictory evidence and justifications and defences, and the question of whether there is a rationale for viewing exclusive dealing arrangements differently in developing countries.
The focus on exclusive dealing in the UCWG sessions at this year’s conference reflects the main UCWG’s output of this year, the workbook chapter on Exclusive Dealing.
3 p.m. The Current State of Economic Research Regarding Exclusive Dealing
This break-out session by the UCWG will focus on what current economic theory and empirical research have to say about the effects of exclusive dealing. The panel will discuss how both established theories, as well as more novel ones, can inform practitioners in their analyses of exclusive dealing cases. The session will allow an even deeper assessment of the substantive economic questions raised in the plenary, and will furthermore benefit from a panel made up exclusively of economists.
4:45 p.m P=f(Q,Y,U). Do Economists Speak the Same Language?
Hear Howard Shelanski, Director, Bureau of Economics, US Federal Trade Commission, and Kai-Uwe Kühn, Chief Competition Economist, European Commission present their views on how economists can bridge the gaps across jurisdictions to promote convergence. Share your perspective on “hot topics” ripe for discussion across jurisdictions. After opening presentations, Mr. Thomas Ross, Senior Associate Dean, Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia will help lead a discussion on how best to involve economists in the work of the ICN.
Sweden: Competition Authority’s Interim Order prohibiting Hockeyligan from boycotting NHL players annulled by Swedish Market Court
The Swedish Market Court (the Court) has annulled on 18 December 2012 the Swedish Competition Authority’s (SCA) interim order prohibiting the Swedish ice hockey league association, Svenska Hockeyligan AB (Hockeyligan), from boycotting players from North America’s National Hockey League (NHL). The Court considered that Hockeyligan’s decision to prohibit its member clubs from entering into short-term contracts with NHL players was part of a general prohibition of short-term contracts, which was justified with regard to the specificity of sport.
|On 15 September 2012, negotiations between the NHL and the NHL Players’ Association on a new collective bargaining agreement broke down, resulting in the immediate lock-out by the NHL clubs of their players. As a result, the locked-out NHL players became available to clubs competing in other ice hockey leagues. However, in anticipation of the NHL lockout, Hockeyligan, a league association comprising the 12 clubs competing in Sweden’s elite ice hockey league, decided already on 21 August 2012 that no club would be allowed to engage locked-out players on short-term contracts during the NHL conflict.
Following a decision to open an ex-officio investigation into Hockeyligan’s conduct, the SCA issued an interim order on 20 September 2012 prohibiting Hockeyligan from applying its decision while the SCA’s investigation was pending. Hockeyligan appealed the interim order to the Court.
On 12 October 2012 the Court rejected Hockeyligan’s request for a stay of the SCA’s interim order while the appeal was being heard.
In its decision of 18 December 2012, the Court held that, as an association of undertakings, competition law applies to Hockeyligan as well as to its owner clubs individually. The Court also rejected Hockeyligan’s contention that the decision should be exempt from competition law as it constituted an agreement between employers regarding terms of employment.
However, the Court considered that Hockeyligan’s decision to prohibit the engagement of locked-out NHL-players on short-term contracts was part of a general prohibition on short-term contracts adopted by Hockeyligan in 2006. Accordingly, the Court found that Hockeyligan’s decision of 21 August 2012 did not amount to a boycott of NHL players wishing to play in the Swedish ice hockey league in the event of a lock-out, but merely a reminder that the general prohibition on short-term contracts applies also to them.
The Court found that the prohibition is justified by sporting objectives, and that any resultant anti-competitive effects of the rule are proportionate to those objectives. Consequently, the Court annulled the SCA´s interim order.
Mid-January 2013, a new collective agreement was reached in the NHL and the NHL season was finally launched, meaning that the previously locked-out NHL players are no longer available to play in Sweden. The SCA found therefore that there were no longer grounds to pursue its investigation into the matter and closed its investigation on 21 January 2013.
The Market Court’s decision (in Swedish).
On 20 December 2012, the Swedish Market Court (the court) adopted a decision stating that the Swedish Automobile Sports Federation (the Federation) cannot apply its loyalty rules in the future. In May 2011, the SCA issued a decision ordering the Federation to change its loyalty rules. The rules contained a total ban on participating in races outside the Federation, for drivers and officials carrying a license from the Federation. The Authority found that the loyalty rules were far too categorical, that they limited the possibilities for independent organizers to arrange motor races in competition with the Federation’s member clubs and restricted competition in the market for organizing auto racing events. The rules therefore constituted an infringement of Article 101 TFEU and its equivalent in the Swedish Competition Act.
The Federation appealed the SCA´s decision. In December 2012, the Court reached a decision ordering the Federation not to apply the contested loyalty rules in the future. In its decision the Court took into consideration the specificity of sport, and found that the Federation’s rules had been too stringent and resulted in unjustified restrictions on competition, hindering the development of automobile sports in Sweden. Further, the Court found that activities outside the Federation can contribute to making the sport more accessible to a broader group of participants and audience.
The decision of the Court, which cannot be appealed and which enters into immediate effect, will open up the market to more diversity and the development of new forms of automobile races and hence the sport should become more accessible for both participants and spectators. It is hoped that the Court’s decision will also lead to reflection among other Swedish sport federations.
For more information, click here.