Letters from CAMP

Letters: Competition Reform Home Stretch

April 14, 2024

Welcome to Letters from CAMP, a newsletter on anti-monopoly activity in Canada and abroad, brought to you by the Canadian Anti-Monopoly Project. In this installment we have:

  • CAMP urges Canadian MPs to enact Bill C-59’s competition law reform
  • The UK’s competition authority outlines concerns with the market for AI models
  • Pharmacy regulators push back against restrictive deals with insurance companies
  • European civil society organizations calls for a rebalancing of corporate power

Let’s dive in.

CAMP Calls on MPs to Bring Home Competition Reform

In a statement this week to the House Finance Committee, CAMP Executive Director Keldon Bester voiced support for the ambitious reform of Canada’s competition law proposed in Bill C-59. While C-59 makes important improvements to Canada’s competition law, CAMP highlighted the ability of individual companies to bring cases against competitive harms and inclusion of effects on workers in analysis of harmful mergers as particularly meaningful changes.

C-59 represents a generational change in Canada’s competition law, but room for improvement remains. Looking beyond C-59, CAMP put forward presumptions against mergers in already concentrated markets and more powerful remedies against harmful mergers as areas for future reform consideration. As with C-56, competition reform enjoys cross party support, with both Conservative, NDP and Bloc Québécois members pushing for a stronger response to complement reforms proposed by the Liberals.

With public frustration mounting over the cost of living in Canada, CAMP continues to push for laws that effectively police monopolies and promote a healthier business environment for all. As the legislative review continues, CAMP remains hopeful that Parliament will follow through on these calls for more competition in Canada.

UK Watchdog Homes in on AI Model Monopolization

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has raised alarms about the rapidly consolidating market for foundation models that power modern artificial intelligence systems. In a stark warning, the regulator pointed to a handful of deep-pocketed tech giants rapidly cornering this critical segment. Foundation models are the large language and computer vision models that form the basis for AI applications like chatbots, content filters, and automation tools. Monopolization risks limiting innovation and consumer choice as cash-strapped startups struggle to access and train competing models.

In response to these concerns, the CMA outlined potential interventions such as pooling data resources to level the playing field and requiring dominant players to license their models on fair terms. With AI positioned as a key economic battleground, the watchdog aims to promote conditions for an fair and open AI ecosystem that benefits businesses and citizens alike.

Provinces Push Back Against Pharmacy Lockdown Deals

A growing number of provincial pharmacist regulators are signaling their discomfort with the spread of exclusive deals between insurance providers and corporate pharmacy chains. These “preferred provider network” (PPN) arrangements restrict patients to using designated pharmacies to get their prescription drug coverage. The backlash intensified after Manulife, Canada’s largest insurer, attempted to sign an exclusive PPN deal with Shoppers Drug Mart before walking it back amid public outcry. By restricting patient choice, regulators worry PPNs put business interests ahead of patient choice and quality care.

While some provinces cited limits on their authority to regulate insurers, the chorus of criticism from pharmacy watchdogs underscores the high-stakes battle over customer captivity in Canada’s drug supply chain. As more companies explore lucrative PPN arrangements, provinces must move to safeguard patients’ freedom to choose their pharmacists.

European Anti-Monopoly Groups Lay Out Vision to Curb Corporate Dominance

An audacious new report has delivered a clarion call for the European Union to get serious about tackling concentrated corporate power across its economic sphere. The “Rebalancing Europe” manifesto, backed by an array of civil society groups, lays bare the existential threats posed by monopolistic forces. From Big Tech’s subversion of democracy to concentrated supply chains that imperil strategic autonomy, the report details how Europe is beset by excessive private dominance.

To reverse this state of affairs, the manifesto advocates for revamping competition policies and expanding the definition of harms over narrow consumer welfare standards. Specific proposals included granting regulators new industry-wide investigation powers, deploying tougher merger blocking and breakup orders and amplifying voices of consumer advocates in enforcement cases. With EU elections looming, the report represents a full-throated demand for trust-busting to be a keystone of the next Commission’s agenda.

If you have any monopoly tips or stories you’d like to share, drop us a line at hello@antimonopoly.ca

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