Competition weekly news summary
14 December 2012

Conferences and speeches

  • Statement on commitments from Apple and four publishing groups for sale of e-books
    Statement at Midday Briefing / Berlaymont press room / Brussels, Joaquín Almunia
    13 December 2012
    "In particular the agency contracts with Apple included what can be called a "most-favoured customer" clause [...]. According to this clause, if any retailer sold an e-book at prices lower than that on Apple's iBookstore, the publishers would have to match that lower price on Apple’s store, further lowering their revenues. [...] In consequence, the concerned publishers took the necessary steps to switch all retailers to agency agreements in order to take away their discretion in setting retail prices. Amazon and other retailers were faced with what we suspect was a concerted and coordinated demand by these four major international publishers to agree to agency models of distribution. They were told they might not be supplied with e-books if they did not agree to the switch."
    Read full statement >
  • Introductory remarks on Hutchison 3G Austria/ Orange Austria merger decision
    Press conference, Strasbourg, Joaquín Almunia
    12 December 2012
    "Our in-depth investigation showed that without proper remedies, the market power of the new entity would have been very high. Today half of customers who are switching to a new supplier for their smartphones choose either Hutchison or Orange. While Hutchison is currently an important competitive force in the Austrian market, its incentive to continue to compete in such a way would have been reduced. In the end, our analysis, supported by thorough economic assessment, showed that the merger would have led to substantial price increases for Austrian consumers."
    Read full statement >
  • Legal certainty, proportionality, effectiveness: the Commission's practice on remedies
    Charles River Associates Annual Conference, Brussels, Alexander Italianer
    5 December 2012
    "To achieve their purpose, remedies must be well-designed and fully implemented: this is key in enforcing competition policy effectively and allowing markets and companies to develop to their fullest potential. Remedies should generate legal certainty, be effective and proportionate. Most of all, they should have a positive impact on the market. Our practice in the last years and convergence between merger and antitrust remedies has helped us meet these standards."
    Read full speech >

Competition

  • Commission launches study on choice and innovation in food sector
    11 December 2012
    The Commission has launched a study to assess the impact of recent developments in the European retail sector on consumers. Following calls by stakeholders, the Commission will examine, in particular, whether increased concentration and the use of own brand (private label) products have hampered choice and innovation in the European food sector. The Commission invites interested expert researchers to submit proposals to its call for tenders by 14 February 2013. The final report of the study is expected by the end of 2013. The Commission will evaluate the results and may put forward proposals to improve the functioning of European food markets.
    Read more >

Antitrust

  • Commission accepts legally binding commitments from Simon & Schuster, Harper Collins, Hachette, Holtzbrinck and Apple for sale of e-books
    13 December 2012
    The Commission has rendered legally binding commitments offered by Apple and four international publishers - Simon & Schuster (CBS Corp., US), Harper Collins (News Corp., US), Hachette Livre (Lagardère, France), Holtzbrinck (Germany; owner of inter alia Macmillan). The Commission had concerns that these companies may have contrived to limit retail price competition for e-books in the EEA, in breach of EU antitrust rules. To address these concerns, the companies offered in particular to terminate on-going agency agreements and to exclude certain clauses in their agency agreements during the next five years. The publishers further offered to give retailers freedom to discount e-books, subject to certain conditions, during a two-year period. After a market test, the Commission is satisfied that the final commitments remedy the competition concerns it had identified.
    Read more >
    Frequently asked questions >
  • Commission opens proceedings against Romanian Power Exchange
    11 December 2012
    The Commission has opened formal antitrust proceedings against OPCOM and Transelectrica to investigate whether the operator of the only power exchange in Romania may be abusing its dominant position. The Commission has concerns that OPCOM may be discriminating against companies on the basis of their nationality or place of establishment, in breach of Article 102 TFEU.
    Read more >

Mergers

  • Commission clears acquisition of Austrian mobile phone operator Orange by H3G, subject to conditions
    12 December 2012
    The Commission has approved the proposed acquisition of Orange's mobile telephony business in Austria by Hutchison 3G (H3G). The approval is conditional upon the implementation of a commitments package that will facilitate the entry of new players into the Austrian mobile telecommunications market. The Commission had concerns that the elimination of one out of only four mobile network operators in Austria could have led to less competition and higher prices, to the detriment of end consumers. To address these concerns, H3G submitted remedies, offering in particular to divest radio spectrum and related rights and to provide wholesale access to its network. In light of these commitments, the Commission concluded that the transaction would no longer raise competition concerns.
    Read more >
  • Commission opens in-depth investigation into creation of "NewCo", combining Munksjö and part of Ahlstrom.
    7 December 2012
    The Commission has opened an in-depth investigation into the planned combination of Munksjö AB, a Swedish-based manufacturer of high value-added paper products, and the European label and processing business of Ahlstrom, a Finnish manufacturer of high performance materials. The two entities would be transferred to a new company, "NewCo", through a series of transactions. The Commission's preliminary investigation indicated potential competition concerns in the markets of pre-impregnated paper ("PRIP") and abrasive paper backings, where NewCo would have high market shares both in the EEA and worldwide.
    Read more >

Court

  • Commission welcomes General Court judgments on appeals in calcium carbide cartel
    13 December 2012
    The EU General Court (GC) has upheld fines that the Commission had imposed in 2009 on Novácke chemické závody (NCHZ), Ecka Granulate and Almamet for participating in a cartel in the sector of calcium carbide and magnesium based reagents. This judgment is important, because it confirms the validity of the Commission's approach for the finding of an infringement and the setting of the fines of these companies.
    Read more >
    Read full judgment on NCHZ appeal >
    Read full judgment on Ecka appeal >
    Read full judgment on Almamet appeal >
    Read more about Commission's 2009 decision >
  • Case T-103/08, Versalis and ENI v Commission
    13 December 2012
    The EU General Court (GC) ruled on an appeal against a Commission decision of 2007 fining several companies for a cartel on the market for chloroprene rubber. The GC upheld the Commission's decision but reduced ENI's fine from around €132 million to around €106 million.
    Read full judgment >
    Read more about Commission's 2007 decision >
  • Case C-226/11 Expedia
    13 December 2012
    The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on questions referred by the French "Cour de Cassation" regarding the interpretation of Article 101 TFEU and the Commission's de minimis notice. The ECJ held that national competition authorities may take into account the market share thresholds established in the Commission De Minimis Notice but are not required to do so. Such thresholds are a factor among others that may enable competition authorities to determine whether or not a restriction of competition is appreciable. The Commission welcomes the clarification that national competition authorities may apply Article 101(1) to an agreement which does not reach the de minimis market share thresholds, provided however that the agreement constitutes an appreciable restriction of competition within the meaning of this provision.
    Read full judgment >
  • Commission welcomes General Court judgment in Electrabel case
    12 December 2012
    The EU General Court (GC) fully dismissed Electrabel's appeal of a Commission decision of June 2009 fining Electrabel €20 million for acquiring control over Compagnie Nationale du Rhône without prior approval under the EU Merger Regulation. This is the first time that an EU court rules on a Commission decision to impose a fine for implementing a concentration of EU dimension without prior notification to and approval by the Commission. The GC confirmed that such early implementation constitutes a serious breach of EU merger control law. The Court also makes clear that the Commission is entitled to adopt effective and deterrent sanctions in case of such infringements.
    Read full judgment >
    Read more on Commission's 2009 decision >
    Frequently asked questions on Commission's 2009 decision >
  • Case C-610/10 Commission v Spain (Mafefesa)
    11 December 2012
    The Commission had referred Spain to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) for failing to comply with a previous ECJ judgment of 2002. That 2002 ruling had found that Spain had failed to comply with a Commission decision of 1989 ordering the recovery of incompatible aid from the company Magefesa. The ECJ found that Spain had not complied with the 2002 judgment and ordered Spain to pay a lump sum of €20 million and a penalty of €50 000 for each day of delay in adopting the measures necessary to comply with the 2002 judgment.
    Read full 2012 ECJ judgment >
    Read full 2002 ECJ judgment >
    Read more about Commission's 1989 decision >

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Published by the Competition Directorate General of the European Commission. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the official position of the European Commission. Neither the Commission nor any person acting on its behalf is responsible for the use which might be made of the above information.

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