The month of May saw the dramatic collapse of the OFT criminal proceedings against four BA executives following the discovery of further admissible evidence. This defeat is a blow to the OFT in what was set to be the first real test of its powers to prosecute individuals for breaches of UK competition law (although it secured convictions in the Marine Hose case, the defendants in that case had pleaded guilty in part of a plea bargain in the US). In the area of merger control, the OFT has decided that it does not have jurisdiction under the Enterprise Act to review Project Canvas, a proposed joint venture between the BBC, ITV, Channel 4, Five, BT, Talk Talk and Arqiva, on the basis that none of the JV partners are contributing a pre-existing business. The Competition Commission has published its final report on ITV's Contracts Rights Renewal undertakings as well as a paper on the use of counterfactuals in merger inquiries. The OFT continues to be active on its reviews of markets, announcing both a market study into outdoor advertising and a "stock take" of infrastructure ownership, as well as publishing a report on online targeted advertising.
At the European level the Commission has made its first cartel settlement decision, fining 10 producers of memory chips a total of €331 million for a price cartel. It will be interesting to see if further settlement decisions will now follow. The Commission has also confirmed that dawn raids have taken place in the sector of stretch film for agricultural use. Having recently adopted a new block exemption and guidelines on vertical agreements, the Commission is now consulting on changes to guidance and exemptions relating to horizontal arrangements. It is consulting on new draft block exemptions relating to R&D and specialisation agreements, as well as new draft horizontal guidelines.
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