The Uber judgment from the UK ET, which was released, this afternoon is the first stage in what will no doubt become and important litigation for the future of the ‘gig economy’ in the UK. Employment lawyers will be the first to feel its impact (if my colleagues schedule of hastily arranged press interviews is anything to go by) but if this interpretation of the arrangement between Uber and its drivers stands in the UK it will also have an impact on competition law.
The first impressions of the judgment. on twitter at least, suggest that when a driver has the app switched on and they are accepting rides they are ‘workers’ for the purposes of UK employment law. This is controversial as Uber have always argued that the drivers are self-employed independent contractors and do not have a ‘worker’ relationship with the firm. If they are workers it will caused issues for Uber as workers have certain rights, for instance in relation to minimum wage and holiday pay, which Uber must ensure.
The finding of worker status for Uber drivers has an interesting positive for Uber outside the employment context. It protects Uber from a raft of potentially difficult competition law issues. The biggest ‘win’ for Uber in this regard is that the difficult question of how it is lawful for the Uber app to fix prices for ‘independent contractors’ is avoided. As the Uber drivers are now workers any agreement/arrangement they have with Uber on pricing takes place within an undertaking and competition law scrutiny under ART 101 TFEU, or its domestic equivalent, is no longer relevant.If Uber drivers were independent Uber would have had to make a difficult Art 101(3) argument that the common pricing structure, essentially a hub-and-spoke cartel of sorts, was a necessary part of its business model, and even with such a hard-core competition restriction the agreement worked to the benefit of consumers. It is not impossible to contemplate such an argument, but it would not have been any easy task.
Given that this is only an ET judgment there is still plenty to play for, as it is bound to go to appeal. The only certainty is that if the employment lawyers don’t get Uber, the competition lawyers will …
The Court handed down its judgment in Case C-23/14 Post Danmark today. The judgment itself is not particularly surprising, in that it largely follows previous judgments of the Court in earlier Art 102 cases. The main feature of note is what the Court didn’t do: it again declined an opportunity to either follow or discredit the so-called ‘more economic approach’ to the abuse of a dominant position. Read More…
The news broke yesterday that the first fully contest trial in relation to the ‘old’ UK cartel offence results in both defendants being acquitted after the jury deliberated for “only a couple of hours”. As the ‘old’ cartel offence is no longer with us, being substantially amended in ERRA 2013, the wider impact of the acquittal might be perceived as being limited, but there are still lessons to be learned from what we know about the acquittal.
The judgment by the General Court, on 12 June 2104, in the Case T-286/09 Intel (ECLI:EU:T:2014:547) has been one of the most controversial in recent years. It it part of the ongoing debate in EU competition law between those who seek to introduce a ‘more economic’ approach to Art 102 TFEU and break away from the formalism they perceive in the Court’s jurisprudence, and those who see the Court’s existing case law as well grounded and effective, and see the more to a ‘more economic’ approach as being a move towards unnecessary uncertainty.
Two recent judgments handed down by the CJEU show how difficult it can be for a Member State to involve itself in fixing minimum prices for products. Given the ongoing challenge to minimum alcohol pricing in Scotland it is interesting that in both these cases the Court ruled against the fixing of prices, but for very different reasons. Neither case is directly analogous to the Scots alcohol MUP referred to the Court in Case C-333/14, but there are perhaps lessons that can be learnt.
The mainstream UK news media has today been gleefully reporting the large fines imposed by the Bundeskartellamt in the German Sausage cartel. What struck me as interesting is why that cartel, above so many others has broken out of the financial press and made the headlines?
I’m reading Daniel Sokol’s ‘Policing the Firm’ (2013) 89 Notre Dame LR 785, and I’m finding his discussion of the role of ‘stigma’ in cartel enforcement interesting.
It’s led me to think about compliance programmes. If firms want to be given credit for having an ‘effective’ compliance programme could the CMA/DG Comp insist that within that programme there are real sanctions in discipline, demotion, or dismissal for all officers or employees who were engaged in cartel activity?
Would that make a scheme a more effective part of creating the right corporate compliance culture?
Interested in Sports or Entertainment? Fancy a trip to Madrid in the Autumn? Well the Competition Law Scholars Forum may have an event which is of interest!
The Competition Law Scholars Forum (CLaSF) will be running a workshop on 26th September 2014. The subject of the workshop will be the broad theme of Competition in Leisure Markets. We invite abstract paper proposals from researchers, scholars, practitioners and policy-makers in relation to any issue within this broad theme. We welcome theoretical, economics-driven, practice-based or policy focused papers, and we are interested in receiving abstracts for papers which may be focused on perspectives or experience at national, regional (eg EU), or international levels, or a combination.