Earlier this month, the UK’s competition regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) said that Sony Music’s acquisition of AWAL “raises competition concerns”. The major label was given give days to respond – a process that involves suggesting ways to address those concerns, called ‘undertakings in lieu’.
However, yesterday the CMA announced that it is now proceeding into a ‘phase 2’ investigation of the acquisition, which means that either Sony Music’s undertakings were deemed unsatisfactory, or it declined to offer any.
What happens next? An independent inquiry panel of people who neither work for the CMA nor were involved in its previous decision will now conduct a deeper probe to decide whether the the merger creates “a substantial lessening of competition” in the UK music market.
That probe could now be taking place alongside a wider investigation into the market power of major labels in the UK – IF the British government refers such an investigation to the CMA, as was recommended by the UK’s parliamentary inquiry into music streaming economics.