The week’s news included; Mastercard & Visa facing £7.5bn lawsuit, Fruit and veg shortage explained, Rugby player found liable for negligence over reckless tackle, Four-day working week extended beyond trials by 90% of companies.

Below are our top 10 stories that you need to know about. Be sure to check our twitter page, Facebook page and Instagram 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 – How ASML became Europe’s most valuable tech firm 
  • FT – What de-influencing tells us about the state of the creator economy 
  • City A.M -Could financial services deal-making rebound this year? EY thinks it might

1. MASTERCARD & VISA FACING £7.5BN LAWSUIT

Mastercard and Visa are facing a huge £7.5 billion group action lawsuit in the UK. A lawsuit filed at the Competition Appeal Tribunal alleges that the payment processing giants overcharged businesses for multilateral interchange fees (MIFs). Companies pay MIFs to their banks in order to accept credit or debit card payments. The MIF rates are allegedly set by Mastercard and Visa and are imposed upon banks as part of their agreements. Banks then charge the companies these overinflated rates. UK businesses are now taking legal action and are seeking at least £7.5 billion in compensation. Registered businesses with an average annual pre-pandemic revenue of under £100m will be automatically included in the claim, unless they opt out. Those with revenue above that threshold will be invited to opt in to the claim. If successful, this could be the largest claim in UK legal history.

2. FRUIT AND VEG SHORTAGE

The UK is facing a significant fruit and vegetable shortage and growers think this could last until May. Rising energy costs have caused many growers to delay planting their crops. Operating greenhouses in the winter is energy intensive and with high energy prices, growing the fruits and vegetables is not economical. Producers are delaying production until warmer months while around 10% have left all together. Furthermore, bad weather in Spain and North Africa has also hit supplies. Some supermarkets have received just 25% of the total produce it ordered from the region. Growers also complain of unsustainably low prices in the UK, leading them to stop selling to the country.

For supermarkets and shoppers, this has led to empty shelves and purchase limits. Tesco, Aldi, Asda and Morrisons have all introduced limits on the number of certain fruit and vegetables purchased per customer. Sainsbury’s, Lidl, Waitrose and M&S have not yet announced any limits.

3. MICROSOFT PUSHES BACK ON ACTIVISION BLIZZARD TAKEOVER

Microsoft has pushed back against the claims that its $68.7 billion acquisition of Activision Blizzard would harm competition. At an EU competition hearing the tech giant said the acquisition will bring more choice to gamers, not less. Microsoft argues their intention is not to restrict access to titles as this would ultimately harm the success of the titles. The company is hoping to persuade EU regulators that the deal will not harm competition.

Microsoft’s main gaming competitor Sony was also at the hearing. They argued that Microsoft would obtain too much power over huge titles like Call of Duty, if the deal went ahead. Microsoft even promised to keep all Activision Blizzard games available on all platforms where it’s currently available for 10 years. Sony rejected this offer and is still opposed to the deal. How regulators view the arguments remains to be seen.

The UK Competition and Markets Authority has provisionally opposed the deal. The EU Commission is currently investigating while some countries like Chile and Saudi Arabia have approved the deal.

4. RUGBY PLAYER NOT EXEMPT FROM NEGLIGENCE LIABILITY

A woman rugby player has been found liable for negligence after severely injuring an opponent with an overly aggressive revenge tackle.  28 year old mother of two Dani Czernuszka suffered spinal injuries and was left paraplegic after the tackle. The defendant who weighed 16 stone compared to Czernuszka’s 9 stone had said that she would “break her”. Czernuszka had played a stellar game and the defendants team had been unable to stop her. The defendant then targeted the claimant while she was unsuspecting and crouched in a vulnerable position to pick up the ball.

The High Court found the defendant liable for negligence. It was recognised that there is an inherent accepted risk of injury when playing contact sports. In this case however, the tackle was made in revenge and with reckless disregard to the claimant’s safety. This crossed the line of acceptable risk and constituted negligence. An assessment for damages in favour of the claimant will now be undertaken.

5. NEW FOOTBALL REGULATOR

A new independent regulator will be established to oversee the financial stability of English football clubs. Clubs at all levels of English football down to the National League will receive a licence to compete from the regulator. In order to receive and retain their licence they must prove they are financially sound and have solid corporate governance. Any stadium changes or sales must be approved by the new regulator. Furthermore, they can block clubs from joining new competitions that “harm the domestic game”. This is referring to a failed attempt at a European Super League which the top teams in Europe were invited to join in 2021 (see previous top 10).

These developments are born out of a fan-led review into English football governance . It was launched in 2021 following the collapse of historic clubs Bury and Macclesfield Town due to financial mismanagement. 64 English football clubs have collapsed since 1992. Premier League and Championship sides collectively had £5.9 billion in debt as of May 2021. The new regulator and accompanying regulations are designed to give fans more power and ensure clubs are sustainable and well managed.

6. ONLINE SAFETY BILLS RECEIVES PUSHBACK

Messaging app Signal has said it will pull out of the UK if the new Online Safety Bill undermines encryption. The Online Safety Bill is designed to help protect against child sexual abuse, terrorism and other crimes committed online or with the aid of online technology. Crucially however, there is concern that companies could be forced to scan encrypted messages for illegal content. This is problematic for companies such as WhatsApp and Signal who provide end-to-end encryption to keep messages secure, even from the operating company themselves. Scanning messages would require them to break or disable the encryption for users, undermining their privacy.

Signal has said any such legislative requirement would see them pull its services from the UK entirely. President of Signal, Meredith Whittaker, said that it was “magical thinking” to have privacy but only for the good guys. The company prides itself on secure and private messaging via its encryption. The government has said the Online Safety Bill is not a ban on end-to-end encryption but platforms must not become a breeding ground for paedophiles. The Bill is currently going through Parliament.

7. TSSA REACHES DEAL WITH NETWORK RAIL

A breakthrough has been made in the ongoing pay dispute between rail companies and their unionised workers. Members of the Transport Salaried Staff’s Association (TSSA) have accepted a two-year 9% pay increase. Workers will receive a 5% or at least £1750 pay increase for the year 2022/2023. Workers will then receive an additional 4% increase in 2023/2024. As part of the deal, there will be no compulsory redundancies on a large portion of staff but members accepted some changes to working conditions.

The TSSA is one of the smaller unions disputing with Network Rail on behalf of their members. The TSSA has 3000 members. Both the RMT and Aslef are still yet to come to an agreement with Network Rail. The two unions have 81,000 and 21,000 members respectively.

8. META LAUNCHES SUBSCRIPTION SERVICE

Meta is launching a new verification subscription service, mirroring Twitter’s own paid subscription plan. The service, Meta Verified, will grant paid users a blue verification badge. This will demonstrate that the account is authentic and a real person is behind it. Currently, only politicians, executives and large organisations have the ability to verify accounts. Now, Instagram and Facebook users can pay $11.99 per month on the web or $14.99 per month on IoS to get verified. A valid ID document would need to be submitted.

9. CONDE NAST SETTLES WITH DRAKE & 21 SAVAGE

The owner of Vogue magazine, Conde Nast, has settled its dispute with rappers Drake and 21 Savage. Last year, Conde Nast claimed the pair used Vogue’s trademarks without permission to promote their album. Drake and 21 Savage placed an image of themselves on a Vogue magazine cover and shared this to promote the album. Conde Nast claims that internet users were confused about the relationship between the rappers and Vogue, despite the image being unauthorised.

Last year, a US court had issued a temporary restraining order upon Drake and 21 Savage requiring them to immediately cease  from using Vogue’s trademark. A settlement has now been reached which permanently prohibits 21 Savage and Drake from using the Vogue trademark or any similar marks. They will also pay an undisclosed sum to Conde Nast.

10. FOUR-DAY WEEK TRIAL

The largest trial of a four-day working week has proved highly successful. 61 companies trialled a four-day week for six months, with no reduction in pay. Participating companies saw employee morale soar, improved staff mental health, fewer staff calling in sick, and productivity increase notably. 56 of the companies are continuing with a four-day week. The findings of the scheme are to be presented to MPs.

While four-day weeks won’t work for every sector or role, the success of the trial is promising. Many companies may opt to use this as additional incentive to recruit talent. A big challenge however, is ensuring 5 days of work is effectively squeezed into 4 days without harming employee well-being. Clearly the trial shows that it is feasible in many cases but how far this can go remains to be seen.