CMA accepts commitments offered to address online auction concerns

Jun 29th '17

ATG Media has committed to change practices which the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) believes hinder competition from rival bidding platforms.

The CMA has today accepted final commitments (PDF) offered by the company, which it believes will enable more competition between online auction platforms. It consulted on ATG Media’s proposed commitments last month.

ATG Media is the largest provider of live online bidding platforms in the UK, including ‘The Saleroom’ – an arts and antiques platform. These platforms are used by auction houses to facilitate online live bidding without bidders having to attend in person.

Last November the CMA launched a Competition Act investigation into 3 practices used by ATG Media which it considered may breach competition laws by preventing or discouraging its customers from using rival platforms.

The 3 practices under investigation were:

  • obtaining exclusive deals with auction houses, so that they do not use other providers;
  • preventing auction houses getting a cheaper online bidding rate with other platforms for their bidders – through contract clauses known as most favoured nation (MFN) or price parity clauses; and
  • preventing auction houses promoting or advertising rival live online bidding platforms in competition with ATG Media.

The CMA considers that these practices may have prevented ATG Media’s rivals from being able to compete effectively in the market and prevented consumers from getting a better deal for online bidding.

ATG Media has today given legally binding promises to the CMA (known as commitments) to stop carrying out any of these practices for a period of 5 years.

Following acceptance of these commitments, the CMA has closed its investigation into whether ATG Media has abused a dominant position or entered into anti-competitive agreements.

The CMA no longer needs to take a decision on an application from a third party for ‘interim measures’ directions, to halt the practices pending the outcome of a full investigation, as the commitments fully address all its competition concerns and bring a halt to those practices. The CMA had given serious consideration to the application for interim measures but shortly before it was to make a final decision on this, ATG Media made its commitments offer.

Michael Grenfell, Executive Director of Enforcement at the CMA, said:

We are pleased that ATG Media has given commitments which address all our concerns. Now these previous restrictions have been removed, we believe alternative platforms or new entrants will be able to compete more easily and offer cheaper commission rates to bidders.

Online and digital markets represent a large and growing part of the economy and we must ensure that these often fast-moving markets do not evolve in ways which may harm consumers.

Reaching a swift outcome in this case demonstrates our ability to ensure that potentially anti-competitive practices are ended quickly.

Source: CMA