Top 10 Stories of Last Week! 26/04/2021

The week’s news included; EU charges Apple over App Store fees, Mishcon de Reya reignites IPO plans, Epic Games and Apple face off in court, Facebook & Gucci team up to sue counterfeiter.

Below are our top 10 stories that you need to know about. Be sure to check our twitter page and Facebook page for regular posts of important headlines. Get all the important stories and insights straight into your inbox by subscribing to our mailing list here.

Opinion articles of the week: 

  • BBC News – Can Western brands recover from consumer backlash in China?
  • City A.M – The office is not dead – far from it, say City insiders.
  • Legal Cheek – Pressure to generate returns forces listed law firms to think outside the box.
  • BBC News – Barclays’ boss predicted biggest economic boom since 1948
  • Investopedia   – Why Fast-Moving Consumer Goods Matter

1. GOOGLE FACES SUPREME COURT LAWSUIT

The Supreme Court will hear a landmark case against Google, alleging the tech giant illegally tracked millions of iPhone users. 4.4 million users are allegedly affected by Google’s cookies on Apple’s Safari. The browser tracked data on user’s health ethnicity, sexuality and finances. Furthermore, even users who selected not to be tracked were still tracked according to the claimant. The case was brought forward by former director of Which? Richard Lloyd. Lloyd is attempting to bring the case on behalf of all affected users. The Supreme Court will now decide whether Lloyd can bring the case forward.

If successful, this could open the floodgates for class action lawsuits in the UK. For Google, this case could ultimately cost it billions, given the scale of alleged data misuse. The Supreme Court’s judgement is expected in a few weeks.

2. APPLE CHARGED BY EU OVER ANTITRUST ISSUES

The EU has charged Apple with breaches of competition law with regards to its app store fees. This case derives from Spotify’s complaint against the tech giant. Apple charges high commission fees for app developers in the music streaming sector and distorted competition in the market. Developers must use Apple’s in-app purchases mechanism to distribute their apps, meaning developers are compelled to pay the 30% commission to Apple on each sale. Furthermore, Apple restricts developers from informing users of cheaper alternatives. Spotify argued that these practices stifle innovation and raise costs for the developers competing with Apple’s own Apple Music. Apple now has 12 weeks to respond to the charges. The tech giant is facing increasing pressure from large app developers over its dominance of the market. Regulators across the globe are now exploring whether Apple’s model is fair for consumers and competitors.

3. MISHCON DE REYA IPO

Law firm Mishcon de Reya will launch its IPO on the London Stock Exchange. The UK based law firm had longstanding plans to float but shelved them in 2020 due to the pandemic. It has now reignited plans as the world returns to normality and financial markets bounce back. Under the floatation, every Mishcon staff member will become a shareholder in the business.

The firm says the IPO will help it achieve its expansion plans and establish a larger market share in legal practice areas such as complex litigation. It may also expand its presence in the venture capital sector. Mishcon reported £188 million in revenue last year.

4. FORTNITE FACES APPLE IN COURT

The maker of Fortnite, Epic Games, will begin its battle against Apple in court this week. Epic Games launched its own in-app payment system, bypassing Apple App Store system. Apple subsequently took Epic Games off the App Store. Apple takes a 30% cut of all in-app purchases.

Epic Games has launched legal action against Apple claiming its charges are extortionate and anti-competitive. Now, Epic has its day in court. For the first time ever, Apple CEO Tim Cook will give testimony at trial.

Apple has generated well over $100 million from Epic Games through in-app charges. Google also has a 30% charge for in-app purchases. Epic will argue Apple and Google have a monopoly in the app space and are abusing their market position by charging such hefty fees. Apple will argue that a private company can charge whatever it pleases, and the 30% charge is market standard. It will also argue the commission goes towards the vetting process that the App Store must complete to prevent fraudulent apps coming to market.

Whether Epic Games will be successful remains to be seen. US competition law covering the big tech space is currently very weak so predicting the outcome is difficult. If Apple loses however, this could disrupt the App Store model for both Apple and Google. The trial is expected to conclude by the end of May.

5. FACEBOOK AND GUCCI CRACKDOWN ON COUNTERFEITER

Facebook and Gucci are launching legal action against a Facebook/Instagram user who runs a large counterfeit goods business on the site. The two giants claim that Moscow-based Natalia Kokhtenko has used Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram to promote her counterfeit designer goods website. Here, she sold fake Gucci bags, shoes and clothing. Kokhtenko not only breached Facebook’s terms of use but has infringed upon Gucci’s trademark rights.

Gucci investigated this last year. Their agents purchased goods from Kokhtenko’s site to confirm the goods were counterfeit. They subsequently informed Facebook of the matter and they attempted to shut down Kokhentko’s accounts. Kokhentko simply set up new accounts and continued to promote her illicit business. Now, both Facebook and Gucci are seeking injunctive relief to block Kokhtenko from infringing on Gucci’s trademark. Gucci is seeking three times the amount of any profits made, or alternatively, $2,000,000 in damages for each and every prohibited mark counterfeited.

Gucci is in an endless battle against counterfeiters. In 2020 alone, over 4.1 million counterfeit Gucci products were seized, and 45,000 vendor sites were disabled.

6. UNILEVER SHARE BUY BACK

Unilever will buy back up to €3 billion of its shares after a bumper first quarter. The consumer goods giant saw its sales jump 5.7% in the first quarter, beating forecasts by nearly 2%. Unilever saw a significant boost in China as consumer demand increased. The company did, however, warn that the impact of the pandemic across the globe cannot be understated. Companies buy back shares to return cash to shareholders and increase their internal ownership and voting rights.

Unilever owns brands such as Marmite, Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and Dove soap. The company turned over nearly €52 billion in 2019.

7. SELF-DRIVING VEHICLES TO HIT UK STREETS

The UK government has announced that some self-driving vehicles may be on UK roads by the end of 2021. Fully autonomous vehicles would not be permitted yet but rather those with automated lane-keeping systems (ALKS). These systems simply keep the car within lanes in cruise control, without driver input. The government will define ALKSs as “self-driving” under new legislation. Under the law, such vehicles will be limited to 37mph and while the driver will not be required to monitor the road, they will need to take over within 10 seconds when requested. There are still significant concerns over the safety of fully autonomous vehicles given a number of fatal accidents. The government recognises it must be cautious before letting this nascent technology loose on the roads.

8. UBER TO HIRE 20,000 DRIVERS

Uber will hire 20,000 UK drivers by the end of 2021. This is in anticipation of a surge in travel as lockdown rules ease. Since 12 April Uber has seen a 50% increase in rides and this is expected to increase significantly. Uber will boast over 90,000 drivers in the UK following this hiring spree. All social distancing rules are set to be scrapped by June 21 and businesses of all types will be expecting a huge boost for sales.

Last month, Uber lost its Supreme Court lawsuit over the employment classification of drivers. The court deemed Uber drivers were classified as workers, not self-employed contractors. Uber subsequently announced it would provide its workers with basic employment rights such as holiday pay and minimum wage. Uber Eats riders are not included in this case.

9. TESCO SEEKS SUPPLY CHAIN SUSTAINABILITY

Tesco is to launch a financial support scheme to encourage its suppliers to adopt emissions reduction targets and greener practices. The scheme will launch in September and will see Tesco become the first retailer to engage with suppliers in this manner regarding sustainability. Suppliers will submit greenhouse emissions data to independent assessors and will receive reduction targets. These suppliers will then receive preferable financing rates through Santander’s supply chain finance platform, providing means to make business processes more environmentally friendly. The financing rates will be linked directly to the supplier’s cooperation and progress against its sustainability goals.

Tesco has already committed to reaching net zero by 2035 and is seeking to help its supply chain adopt more environmentally sustainable practice. Retail Times looks closer at the plans.

10. WAITROSE AND DELIVEROO STRIKE DELIVERY DEAL

Waitrose and Deliveroo have agreed a deal to provide grocery deliveries after a successful trial. The trial launched last year and ran for 12 weeks. Deliveroo would provide delivery within 30 minutes from five stores. Deliveroo will now deliver a range of 1000 products from 150 Waitrose stores across the UK. Customers will have their groceries delivered in 20 minutes.

The pandemic has accelerated a shift towards online grocery shopping. Online shopping now accounts for 14% of the market, doubling in the space of a year. Waitrose is now doubling down and expanding its service. Competitor Ocado is also seeking to expand its delivery capacity through automated delivery services, as discussed in our previous top 10.

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