Top 10 Stories of Last Week! 24/05/2021

The week’s news included; Amazon buys MGM Studios for $8.45bn, Uber recognises GMB trade union, AstraZeneca facing €200m per day fine over EU vaccine trouble, Puma loses trademark lawsuit against Nike.

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 – Are businesses really tackling racial inequality?
  • City A.M – Can Britain keep expanding its playbook for tech regulation without strangling innovation?
  • CNBC – How the $1 trillion market for ‘green’ bonds is changing Wall Street

1. AMAZON BUYS MGM

Amazon has announced that it will purchase MGM Studios for $8.45 billion. This purchase marks a significant step further into entertainment, a field where Amazon is already gaining traction. Amazon’s Prime Video already has millions of users and the tech giant has ramped up its original content. It spent $11 billion on video and music content in 2020, over $3 billion more than in 2019. MGM will undoubtedly bolster its capacity to produce content. MGM has been behind over 4,000 films and 17,000 TV shows in its 97-year history. New additions are likely to follow on Amazon Prime.

Amazon hopes this will help it launch a challenge to Netflix who is currently far ahead of competition. Despite this, Amazon’s bold venture into sports broadcasting is unparalleled by any streaming service. It had secured English Premier League broadcasting rights and has now signed a broadcasting deal with the NFL. Amazon is making clear its goal to be a prevalent market player in almost every field possible.

2. UBER RECOGNISES TRADE UNION

Uber has agreed to recognise a trade union for the first time, which could see improved rights for its drivers. The ride hailing giant will recognise the GMB Union. GMB will be able to represent UK Uber drivers in discussions about employment rights and benefits.

This comes closely after the Supreme Court ruled that Uber was obligated to provide its drivers with basic employment rights like holiday pay and sick pay. Uber has now doubled down on its commitment to providing better employment rights for drivers with this recognition of GMB.

GMB praised the decision and urged other gig economy companies to follow suit. Last year, Just Eat scrapped its own gig economy model to provide its workers with more stable income. Despite this, Uber and Just Eat remain the exception and the gig economy looks unlikely to change from its current form.

3. ASTRAZENECA COULD FACE €200M PER DAY FINE

The EU could issue a huge fine to AstraZeneca for failing to fulfil its vaccine supply contract. AstraZeneca had already warned it would not meet the contractually agreed 300 million doses by the end of June, and instead would aim for just 100 million. The EU lowered its expectations, requesting 120 million doses by the end of June. But at the start of May, AstraZeneca had delivered just 50 million, far fewer than anticipated at that stage. The EU claims this is a severe breach of contract.

Consequently, the EU will seek €10 per day of delay for each vaccine dose as compensation. This could see AstraZeneca be liable for €200 million per day in fines after July 1, in addition to damages.  The fine will need court approval and the next hearing will be on June 4.

4. BIDEN’S SPENDING PLANS

Joe Biden has announced his first annual budget as US president and his plans involve huge spending. $6 trillion in spending was proposed that would see huge investment in social programmes and environmental development. $2.3 trillion of this will go towards his campaign promised jobs plan as well as $1.8 trillion in support for American families. $800 billion would go towards investment in green energy and climate change initiatives. $109 billion will provide two years of free community college for all Americans. National paid leave and medical leave will be increased at a cost of $225 billion. $100 billion will be invested to improve broadband for all Americans.

Biden’s plans will bring US national debt to 117% of GDP by 2031, levels not seen since WW2. To recoup some of the expenses, taxes on corporations and the wealthy will be raised, generating $3 trillion. Unsurprisingly, Republicans are completely opposed to the plans, calling them “insanely expensive”. Biden will have a struggle getting all his proposals passed by Congress, as moderates within the Democratic party could taper some of the plans.

5. UK NORWAY TRADE DEAL FALTERS

The UK and Norway have failed to reach an agreement for a free trade deal. Norway’s coalition government could not reach a consensus to agree to the terms of a proposed deal. A free trade deal would allow a range of products to flow between the nations on a tariff-free basis. The impasse within the Norwegian government was over concerns that British beef and cheese would flood Norway’s market and harm domestic producers.

A crucial deadline has now been missed as Norway has elections coming up in 3 months so any deal will not be passed before 2022 at the earliest. Furthermore, this issue is likely to remain even after elections, but officials are confident a deal can be reached. Trade between Norway and the UK is worth £20 billion. The UK currently trades with Norway on a rollover arrangement, on the same terms as when the UK was in the EU.

6. PUMA LOSES NIKE TRADEMARK LAWSUIT

Nike has beaten Puma in the latest round in the legal battle to trademark “footware”. The High Court dismissed Puma’s appeal and sets the path for Nike to secure the trademark. Nike sought to trademark “footware” in connection with technological connectivity, electronic devices and other related products and services. Puma had initially lodged opposition in 2019, claiming “footware” is not distinctive as the obvious combination of “footwear” and “soft/hardware” is not unique to Nike or any identifiable source. Nike argued “footware” was unique to its products and the UKIPO accepted this argument, rejecting Puma’s objection. Puma then appealed to the High Court.

The High Court judge found that “footware” was not an ordinary descriptive term for goods and the UKIPO’s assessment was adequate. Puma has not yet stated whether it will appeal to the Court of Appeal.

7. NISSAN BATTERY FACTORY

Nissan is reportedly planning to build it’s new gigafactory in the UK. Although not officially confirmed, a report by the Financial Times said that Nissan would expand its Sunderland plant to produces electric batteries. The site will reportedly produce 200,000 batteries per year and create thousands of jobs. Furthermore, Nissan will reportedly select the UK as its main hub for electric vehicles outside of Japan.

With a ban on sales of new non-electric vehicles coming in the 2030’s, manufacturers are ramping up their electric vehicle production. Sales of electric vehicles are expected to skyrocket as the deadline draws nearer. Nissan will make all of its new vehicles in key markets electric by 2030 and will attain carbon neutrality by 2050.

8. NEW WHIPLASH LAWS

The UK government has introduced new laws to crackdown on fraudulent whiplash claims. This is expected to save motorists £1 billion or up to £35 a year off insurance premiums.  Drivers will now make small accident claims under £5000 via an online portal. Medical evidence will need to be provided here for future whiplash claims and for any other small claims. The system will be cheaper for all parties than using lawyers and hopefully will speed up processes.

Although reported road traffic accidents are declining, claims are increasing. Insurers are attributing this to swathes of fraudulent and exaggerated claims. This new system hopes to stem the problem of fraudulent claims.

9. CLEARVIEW FACES LEGAL CHALLENGE

Campaign group Privacy International has issued a legal complaint against Clearview AI over alleged unlawful collection of 3 billion facial images from the Internet. The US data company scrapes images of human faces from the internet and runs these through facial recognition software. All information is then stored and sold to private companies and law enforcement. Privacy International says Clearview has been collecting and selling these images in breach of GDPR.

Clearview says it has no contracts with EU based customers and has complied with requests to remove images and data of EU citizens. Privacy International submitted a legal complaint to data protection regulators in Austria, France, Greece, Italy and the UK.  

10. LUNO BITCOIN AD BANNED

The Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) has banned Luno’s “it’s time to buy” Bitcoin ad, calling it irresponsible and misleading. The ads have been displayed across London’s underground and bus network. It reads “If you’re seeing Bitcoin on the Underground, it’s time to buy.” The ASA said it failed to illustrate the risks of investments in cryptocurrency and took advantage of consumer’s inexperience in the markets. Bitcoin’s price recently tumbled after China’s crackdown on cryptocurrencies. This recent tumble sparked the ASA to take action. Luno has agreed not to share the ads and will include a risk warning in future adverts.

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