Thursday, June 19, 2003

Antitrust News: The International Pokemon Cartel

This weekend, U.S. antitrust officials are heading for Mexico to meet with their colleagues from across the globe in the so-called International Competition Network. I suspect that there's some sort of contest between antitrust agencies to come up with the most petty case possible. Heading into this weekend, the European Commission is making a strong claim for the title:
BRUSSELS, Belgium -- European regulators have opened proceedings against U.S. trading card marketer Topps Company Inc. for suspected anticompetitive practices in the distribution of cards and stickers featuring Pokemon cartoon characters.

The European Commission said Thursday it had found evidence that Topps' European subsidiaries and their distributors "put in place an elaborate strategy to prevent imports from low-price to high-price countries" at the height of a Pokemon craze among European children in 2000.

The Commission said the company had pledged in November 2000 to bring its distribution into line with EU rules and that there was no evidence of anticompetitive behavior since then.
One can only imagine the European Commission meeting where Pokemon cards were discussed. The French and German representatives no doubt wanted to create a centralized European Pokemon Authority, only to be thwarted by smaller nations who feared the potential dominance of French and German Pokemon characters. The British, of course, were committed in principle to a central authority but decided to retain Britain's Pokemon independence until certain conditions could be met. The U.S., meanwhile, was threatening a trade war unless the EU allowed genetically modified Pokemon to be imported into Europe.

I smell an Onion story in this...

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