On 30 November 2021 the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) prohibited the acquisition by Meta Platforms, Inc (formerly known as Facebook, Inc) of Giphy, Inc, marking the first time an acquisition by a ‘Big Tech’ firm has been blocked by a competition authority. Some have criticized the CMA for taking a stand against a merger between two foreign companies, in an activity as inconsequential as GIFs, and with no current horizontal overlaps in the UK. This article argues that the CMA’s decision in Meta/Giphy is a predictable result following its increased interventionism in digital markets, and in merger control more generally as shown by its updated Merger Assessment Guidelines, adopted in 2021. The CMA now uses its wide discretion in merger control to set the threshold for finding a substantial lessening of competition so extremely low that the CMA can prohibit almost any merger it wishes.
Partner, Geradin Partners, London, UK and Brussels, Belgium; formerly Legal Director, Competition and Markets Authority, London, UK. Whilst at the CMA, he was not personally involved in the Meta/Giphy case, but was involved in the drafting of the revised Merger Assessment Guidelines and the Illumina/PacBio case, both of which are discussed in this article, and also in the CMA’s digital markets policies.
Trainee solicitor, Geradin Partners, London, UK.
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