Global trends in antitrust enforcement

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Perhaps not unexpectedly given the impact of Covid-19, 2020 saw a mixed picture in terms of fines for antitrust enforcement across the globe. France led the way, imposing total fines of USD2 billion, far ahead of the European Commission (EC) and any other EU Member State. This exceptionally high figure is largely attributable to a single decision which sanctioned Apple and others for resale price maintenance (RPM) and other vertical restrictions, and imposed a record fine of EUR1.2bn. Also notable was an increase in cartel fines by the U.S., with USD539.8 million of fines issued in 2020, representing a significant uptick on recent years and its highest total since 2015. By contrast, the EC (which usually tops the global leader board) saw a marked decline in fine levels – only USD544.8m, in sharp contrast to the 2019 total of USD1.6bn for cartel conduct alone. Several other jurisdictions with a reputation as aggressive enforcers have also seen lower fine levels compared with 2019: in Brazil, a total of USD53.3m in fines was issued, compared to USD235.9m levied for cartel conduct alone in 2019; in both India and Australia, no fines were issued in relation to cartels in 2020. Indeed, for the jurisdictions surveyed in 2019 and 2020, the total fines across these jurisdictions for all antitrust enforcement (including cartel activity, vertical restrictions, and abuse of dominance conduct) were lower than the total fines in 2019 for cartel conduct alone.

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