On 8th August, 2000 the European Commission issued its first clearance decision (at Phase I of the investigation process) on a business to business (B2B) internet marketplace (see "B2B: overcoming the antitrust concerns" in this issue). US based United Technologies Corporation and Honeywell International Inc, competing suppliers of aeronautical products and services, sought clearance to establish MyAircraft.com as an internet marketplace for B2B sales of their products and services to the industry. The joint venture qualified for review under the EC Merger Regulation (4069/89/EEC). The Commission noted that third parties saw the internet portal as a tool to make operations cheaper and more efficient. It also observed that there were a high number of B2B marketplaces in existence or soon to be introduced in the sector. Therefore, MyAircraft.com is likely to face strong competition in this niche market. The potential anti-competitive effects of competitors establishing internet marketplaces is currently under examination in a number of jurisdictions. In May 2000, the UK's OFT announced that it had commissioned Frontier Economics to report to it on the competition implications of e-commerce. Although the Commission has warned that this clearance decision should not be regarded as a carte blanche for all future internet exchanges and B2B portals, the decision is a welcome confirmation that the establishment of e-commerce marketplaces will not necessarily cause competition problems.
Source: European Commission press release, 7th August, 2000; Wall Street Journal, 8th August, 2000; Speech by John S Bridgeman, Director General of Fair Trading, to the Third International Travel and Tourism: Policy, Law and Management Conference; "The Travel Industry: Consumers and Competition, Today and Tomorrow", 8th May, 2000. Clifford Chance