Tag: anti-trust

Vivaldi lashes out at Vole for making Edge on all four seasons

vivaldiA Vivaldi boss has lashed out at Microsoft over its anti-competitive practices with Microsoft Edge.

Jon von Tetzchner says that Microsoft has forgotten about the “actual real-life people that use technology in their daily lives”.

He is particularly miffed at Windows 10’s continued insistence of resetting the default browser to Edge.

Von Tetzchner said that that Microsoft is failing to respect the decisions made by users, and this is something that needs to stop.

Each time Windows 10 upgrades, it changes the default browser to Edge. When a new browser is installed it also leads to restoring Edge as the default option.

Microsoft has also made it complicated for a non-technical user to bring their old default browser back.

“Our goal as technology companies should be to provide great software to our users. At the same time, we should accept that some users prefer software created by other companies. It is our responsibility to be fair to the users, and this is what should drive the technology industry forward. Stripping users of their ability to choose or forcefully limiting their options stalls progress. Focusing on building great products is what should drive us to excel,” he wrote.

 

FTC sues Qualcomm for antitrust antics

monopoly (1)The US Federal Trade Commission filed a lawsuit against Qualcomm saying that the outfit had used “anticompetitive” tactics to maintain its monopoly on a key semiconductor used in mobile phones.

The FTC said that Qualcomm used its dominant position to impose “onerous” supply and licensing terms on smartphone manufacturers and to weaken competitors.

Qualcomm said in a statement that it would “vigorously contest” the complaint and denied FTC allegations that it threatened to withhold chips to collect unreasonable licensing fees.

The action is the last under current Democratic Chairwoman Edith Ramirez, who will step down soon after President Donald (Prince of Orange) Trump takes office.

Trump will name Republican Commissioner Maureen Ohlhausen as acting FTC chairwoman and will fill three vacancies that will reshape the agency. She has previously said that the lawsuit was based on a “flawed legal theory … that lacks economic and evidentiary support”.

In its complaint, the FTC said the patents that Qualcomm sought to license are standard essential patents, which means that the industry uses them widely and they are supposed to be licensed on fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory terms.

The FTC complaint also accused Qualcomm of refusing to license some standard essential patents to rival chipmakers, and entering an exclusive deal with Apple.

“Qualcomm’s customers have accepted elevated royalties and other license terms that do not reflect an assessment of terms that a court or other neutral arbiter would determine to be fair and reasonable,” the FTC said in its complaint.

In February 2015, Qualcomm paid a $975 million fine in China following a 14 month probe, while the European Union in December 2015 accused it of abusing its market power to thwart rivals.

 

Apple faces another antitrust case

apple queueA US appeals court has allowed phone app purchasers to sue the fruity-cargo cult Apple over allegations that the company monopolised the market for iPhone apps by not allowing users to purchase them outside the App Store.

Apple has form for playing monopoly but it had thought that this case would have gone away. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling dug up a long-simmering legal challenge originally filed in 2012 taking aim at Apple’s practice of only allowing iPhones to run apps purchased from its own App Store.

A group of iPhone users sued saying Jobs’ Mob’s practice was anti competitive and meant prices were too high

Apple’s mighty briefs claimed that users did not have standing to sue it because they purchased apps from developers, with Apple simply renting out space to those developers. Developers pay a cut of their revenues to Apple in exchange for the right to sell in the App Store.

A lower court agreed with Apple, but Judge William Fletcher ruled that iPhone users purchase apps directly from Apple, which gives iPhone users the right to bring a legal challenge against Apple.

The Tame Apple Press insists that Apple is safe because the case has not really got to court yet as the wrangling has been over whether they have the right to sue Apple in the first place. However if the challenge does succeed Apple will be forced to let people shop for applications wherever they want, which would open the market and help lower prices.

Apple to pay people damages for the higher than competitive prices they’ve had to pay historically because Apple has used its monopoly. The case will run and run of course. Apple tends not to know when it is beaten, even when it has clearly lost. It took one case to the Supreme Court where it got a good kicking for its trouble.

Google’s antitrust mess in EU got worse

monopoly (1)The European Union has widened and bolstered its antitrust claims against Google, creating another headache for the search engine outfit.

European antitrust regulators sent Google two additional “statements of objections”, saying that it had collected extensive evidence that the company favours its own comparison-shopping service in its search results and that it prevented customers of one of its popular online advertising services from placing ads with rivals and restricted how rival ads were displayed.

This is a step up for the advertising probe, which was first made in an antitrust complaint in April 2015. Both of these investigations are in addition to an ongoing antitrust case against Google for the alleged market-dominance of Android.

Meanwhile Google is facing a separate inquiry into its use of copyrighted content from European publishers and complaints about its underpayment of tax.

Google insists that its products “increased choice for European consumers and promote competition,” and that will provide a detailed response to the European Commission’s claims in the coming weeks.

Chairman Eric Schmidt has said European officials should spend more time trying to promote Europe’s own tech sector and less time trying to punish successful American companies.  Of course the EU would say that is sort of the whole point. If Google was not busy shafting Europe’s tech sector it would not have to look into their anti-trust antics.

Google has got its mates in the US Treasury to complain that the EU seems to be engaging in closet protectionism by unfairly targeting large American tech companies in both antitrust and tax probes. Perhaps it is because US companies are used to telling governments what to do and getting away with murder.

Google will have eight weeks to respond to the EU’s additional evidence in the shopping inquiry and ten weeks to respond to its findings in the advertising case. Both deadlines can be extended by mutual agreement.

And then, if the Commission does ultimately find against Google, the company can appeal the decision to the EU General Court in Luxembourg, the EU’s second-highest judicial body. Decisions can be further appealed to the EU Court of Justice, the top court. An antitrust case could drag on for years: After the EU found Microsoft in violation of antitrust rules for favoring its own applications in the Windows operating system in March 2004, it took more than eight years for Microsoft to exhaust all the legal appeals over that decision and over the fines imposed.

 

Google might face a third EU anti-trust charge

monopoly (1)Google may face a third EU antitrust charge next month, over its AdWords ad placement service.

According to Reuters, the search engine outfit is already in hot water with the European Commission for promoting its shopping service at the expense of rivals and for using its Android mobile operating system for smartphones to squeeze out competitors.

The Commission has asked Google rivals to share information related to search advertising with the tech giant, a step suggesting the EU competition enforcer could be poised to hit Google with a fresh charge, the sources said.

AdWords and AdSense services were first complained about in 2010 when rivals moaned about nfair advertising exclusivity clauses and undue restrictions on advertisers.

AdWords forms the core of Google’s advertising business which posted about $75 billion in revenue last year, accounting for 90 percent of Alphabet’s total annual revenue.

A ruling in the Commission’s case against Google over its shopping service, which had been expected this year, appears to have been delayed after the Commission asked rivals for more documents in a bid to reinforce its legal arguments, the sources said.

The company could be fined up to $7.4 billion or 10 percent of its global turnover for each case if found guilty of abusing its dominance.

Of course the UK will be dependent on its government to stand up to Google now that it has exited the EU.

 

Koreans investigate Apple antitrust antics

apple-dalek-2The fruity cargo cult Apple is seeing its star descend rapidly in the Far East as the South Koreans open an antitrust investigation into its doings.

South Korea’s Fair Trade Commission (FTC) has confirmed it is investigating “some matters” relating to tech giant Apple.

The head of the anti-competition body Jeong Jae-chan told during a parliamentary hearing that he was currently investigating Jobs’ Mob without going into any other details.

Jeong declined to comment on the specifics of the regulator’s investigation when asked to do so by a South Korean lawmaker.

Domestic media reports said earlier this month the FTC was reviewing details of the U.S. firm’s contracts with South Korean mobile telecoms carriers, so it might have something to do with Apple’s deal with one of them.

Apple’s deals with carriers were the mainstay behind its success in the US and worldwide. Lately, telcos have been less keen on subsidised phone packages as a way of helping line sales.

 

Apple let off the antitrust hook

150276-ebc7898c-84b3-11e3-90a9-2f6f5b597dd3European antitrust watchdogs will not take a bite out of Apple’s rump over the Fruity cargo cult’s music streaming service.

Antitrust authorities in Europe failed to find evidence that Apple deals with record labels and online music streaming services are blocking rivals’ access to its music streaming platform.

The European Commission started an investigation in April and sent out questionnaires to several record labels seeking information about their dealings with Apple.

The investigation did not turn up evidence of any illegal activity, but the European Union will continue to monitor the market.

Oddly the investigators have not heard from Spotify and other music streaming services on the restrictions Apple places on apps offered through the store.  This means that Apple’s alleged victims failed to take advantage of the situation to stick the boot in.

US government antitrust regulators were also looking into claims about whether Apple’s treatment of rival streaming music apps is illegal under antitrust law.

Apple’s streaming music could be illegal

Old Apple logo - Wikimedia CommonsApple’s music streaming business has attracted the attention of the anti-trust watchdogs in the US.

Jobs’ Mob, which has previous form for playing monopoly, is accused of treating rival streaming music apps illegally.

Apple Music provides the App Store platform for competing streaming services including Jango, Spotify, Rhapsody and others and takes a 30 percent cut of all in-app purchases for digital goods, such as music streaming subscriptions and games, sold on its platform.

However Apple appears to have managed it so that its rivals have to charge more in the App Store than they do on other platforms or erode their profit margins.

The Federal Trade Commission is looking at the problem but has not begun a formal investigation, said the three industry sources, who requested anonymity. The agency has had meetings with multiple concerned parties, one source said.

Apple arrived fashionably late on the streaming digital music scene and there were a number of rivals.

Streaming services’ chief grievances with Apple stem from the company’s 30 percent cut. To avoid it, customers can sign up for a streaming service through their Web browser, but the streaming industry sources argue that many consumers do not realize that is an option.

Google also offers a music subscription service and charges a 30 percent transaction fee in its app store, its policies for app sales have drawn less ire from rival streaming services. Industry sources say this is because the search engine places fewer restrictions on those transactions.

Apple’s critics are complaining under Section Five of the FTC Act, which prohibits “unfair or deceptive acts or practices,” to pursue Apple.

EU not investigating Qualcomm anti-trust

 qualcomThe EU has finished its anti-trust investigation into chipmaker Qualcomm and has decided the company has no case to answer.

European Union antitrust regulators have said that they are not investigating US chipmaker Qualcomm’s patent licensing deals, an EU source said.

The European Commission has been looking into rebates and financial incentives offered by Qualcomm since 2010 to check if it was using these in breach of EU rules to discourage customers from switching to rivals.

British mobile chipmaker Icera, a subsidiary of Qualcomm rival Nvidia moaned to the EU about what it called Qualcomm’s anti-trusty antics.

But the EU said that the way Qualcomm licenses its standard essential patents is not being targeted by the Commission.

The news will be a relief to Qualcomm which paid a $975 million fine to China to end a 14-month investigation. It also agreed to cut its royalty rates on patents used in China and not challenge an antitrust violation finding.

e-commerce has its first antitrust case

ArrestThe US Department of Justice’s antitrust division has announced its first successful prosecution against an e-commerce outfit.

David Topkins was accused of conspiring with other poster sellers to manipulate prices on Amazon from September 2013 to Jan. 2014, according to papers filed in a San Francisco federal court.

The DoJ said Topkins had agreed to plead guilty to conspiring to illegally fix the prices of posters he sold online, pay a $20,000 criminal fine and cooperate with its probe. The deal requires court approval.

Topkins used algorithms, for which he wrote computer code, to coordinate price changes, and then share information about poster prices and sales.

The Justice Department said this activity violated the Sherman Act, a federal antitrust law, by causing posters to be sold at “collusive, non-competitive” prices.

Amazon was not charged in the case against Topkins. He might have got off lightly. The charge against Topkins carries a maximum 10-year prison term and $1 million fine, the Justice Department said.