On January 31, 2022, the Commission launched a formal investigation of Pierre Cardin and its largest licensee, the Ahlers Group (“Ahlers”) concerning the restriction of cross-border and online sales of Pierre Cardin-licensed products.[1] The Commission will investigate whether Pierre Cardin’s licensing agreement with Ahlers restricted parallel imports and sales to specific customer groups.

On January 27, 2022, the Commission conditionally cleared Meta’s (formerly Facebook) acquisition of Kustomer, a U.S.-based Customer Relationship Management (“CRM”) software provider.[1] The transaction was initially notified in Austria in March 2021. The Austrian competition authority referred it to the Commission in April pursuant to Article 22 of the EU Merger Regulation, and several other Member States subsequently joined the referral.

On January 26, 2022, the General Court partially annulled the Commission’s decision imposing a €1.06 billion fine on Intel for abusing its dominant position through the granting of exclusivity- conditioned rebates.[1] The General Court found that the Commission had not established to the requisite legal standard that the rebates were capable of having, or were likely to have, anticompetitive effects.[2]

On January 19, 2022, the General Court ordered the Commission to pay default interest on the excess amount of a fine paid by Deutsche Telekom. The interest relates to a €31 million fine the Commission imposed on Deutsche Telekom in October 2014 for infringing Article 102 TFEU by implementing margin squeezing practices in the Slovak broadband market.

After a review of over two years, on January 13, 2022, the Commission prohibited Hyundai Heavy Industries Holdings’ (“HHIH”) acquisition of Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering (“Daewoo”).[1] This is only the tenth prohibition decision in ten years, and the first since 2019.[2]

In the 2021 edition of this memo, we wrote that antitrust in 2020 received more political and media attention than at any recent time. 2021 beat that standard in multiple ways, and 2022 looks to continue that trend. In addition to continuing the major tech cases brought under the Trump administration, 2021 saw unprecedented levels of legislative activity in antitrust (both federal and state), competition policy taking a leading position across federal agencies and startling new approaches at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in particular – new approaches that, while they haven’t yet produced a wave of new enforcement actions, have required changes in thinking about and approaching antitrust issues. We expect these trends to accelerate in 2022.

From this month (January 2022), it will be easier for EU Member States to provide government subsidies (also known as “State aid”) for climate and renewable energy projects.  At the same time, the EU is cracking down on public funding for fossil fuels.

On December 22, 2021, the German Federal Cartel Office (“FCO”) published its annual review for 2021.[1]  As done already on the occasion of the presentation of its Annual Report 2020/2021,[2] the FCO’s President, Andreas Mundt, emphasized again that the protection of competition in the digital economy remains one of the FCO’s top priorities.  He underlined that also merger control will continue to serve as a key tool to achieve this goal.  In addition, he pointed out that the FCO would welcome powers of intervention also with regard to infringements of consumer rights.