Competition weekly news summary
17 May 2013


Conferences and Speeches

  • Consumer-goods markets: A litmus test for competition policy
    ECR Europe Annual Conference, Brussels, Joaquín Almunia
    14 May 2013
    "Fair and keen competition in food and consumer-goods markets is vital if we are serious about leading Europe out of the current downturn. These markets are also part of the daily lives of the vast majority of ordinary Europeans and we will continue to watch them closely. At bottom, competition control is about consumer welfare. Keeping food and consumer-goods markets free from illegal and harmful anti-competitive practices is a litmus test for us. We will show to the people that competition control can bring real benefits when they most need them and bring benefits that they can touch first-hand."
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Competition

  • European Union and Switzerland sign Cooperation Agreement in Competition Matters
    17 May 2013
    The European Union and the Swiss Confederation have signed an agreement that will strengthen co-operation between their respective competition authorities, the European Commission and the Swiss Competition Commission. This is the fifth such agreement signed by the EU after agreements concluded with the United States, Canada, Japan and Korea. An innovative feature of the agreement with Switzerland is that it will enable the two competition agencies to exchange information they have obtained in their investigations. The signature took place subject to ratification: the agreement will enter into force once it has been approved by the European Parliament and the Swiss Parliament.
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  • European Competition Network publishes ECN Brief 2/2013
    16 May 2013
    The European Competition Network (ECN), composed of the Commission and Member States' competition authorities, has published the second ECN Brief of 2013. Among other news, the Brief 2/2013 reports on enforcement actions in a large variety of sectors and new competition authorities in Belgium and in The Netherlands. The next issue will be published in mid-July.
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Antitrust

  • Commission confirms unannounced inspections in the sugar sector
    15 May 2013
    On 23 April, Commission officials undertook unannounced inspections at the premises of companies active in the sugar industry in several Member States. The inspections relate to the supply of white sugar. The Commission has reasons to believe that the companies concerned may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices.
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  • Vice President Almunia welcomes Visa Europe's proposal to cut inter-bank fees for credit cards
    14 May 2013
    Vice President Almunia welcomes Visa Europe's proposed commitments to significantly cut its inter-bank fees for credit card payments, to a level of 0.3% of the value of the transaction (a reduction of about 40 to 60%) and to reform its rules in order to facilitate cross-border competition. The proposals by Visa follow the sending of a supplementary statement of objections by the Commission in July 2012. The Commission will seek feedback on these proposals from interested parties through a market test.
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  • Commission confirms unannounced inspections in oil and biofuels sectors
    14 May 2013
    On 14 May 2013, Commission officials carried out unannounced inspections at the premises of several companies active in and providing services to the crude oil, refined oil products and biofuels sectors. These inspections took place in two EU Member States. At the Commission's request, inspections were also carried out on its behalf by the EFTA Surveillance Authority in one European Economic Area (EEA) Member State. The Commission has concerns that the companies may have colluded in reporting distorted prices to a Price Reporting Agency to manipulate the published prices for a number of oil and biofuel products. Furthermore, the Commission has concerns that the companies may have prevented others from participating in the price assessment process, with a view to distorting published prices.
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  • Commission sends Statement of Objections to Motorola Mobility on potential misuse of mobile phone standard-essential patents
    6 May 2013
    The Commission has informed Motorola Mobility of its preliminary view that the company's seeking and enforcing of an injunction against Apple in Germany on the basis of its mobile phone standard-essential patents ("SEPs") amounts to an abuse of a dominant position prohibited by EU antitrust rules. While recourse to injunctions is a possible remedy for patent infringements, such conduct may be abusive where SEPs are concerned and the potential licensee is willing to enter into a licence on Fair, Reasonable and Non-Discriminatory (so-called "FRAND") terms. In such a situation, the Commission considers at this stage that dominant SEP holders should not have recourse to injunctions. Such injunctions generally involve a prohibition to sell the product infringing the patent in order to distort licensing negotiations and impose unjustified licensing terms on patent licensees.
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Mergers

  • Commission approves acquisition of Parlophone Label Group by the parent company of Warner Music Group
    15 May 2013
    The Commission has cleared the proposed acquisition of the Parlophone Label Group by Access Industries Inc., the ultimate owner of Warner Music Group. The Commission's investigation confirmed that the proposed transaction would not raise competition concerns, in particular because after the acquisition, Warner will continue to face competition from the two remaining major music companies, namely Universal Music Group and Sony, as well as from independent music labels.
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  • Commission approves joint venture between Hydro and Sapa, the two largest soft alloy extruders in the EEA, subject to conditions
    13 May 2013
    The Commission has cleared the proposed creation of a joint venture between Norsk Hydro ASA and Orkla ASA's wholly-owned subsidiary Sapa Holding AB, both Norwegian companies active in the soft-alloy aluminium extrusions market. The joint venture will be the world's leading aluminium extrusions provider, with around €6 billion in annual revenues. The clearance is conditional on the divestment of Sapa's multiport extrusions (MPE) business in the Netherlands and Hydro's largest soft-alloy extrusions plant in Norway.
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State aid

  • Commission opens investigation into public financing for German paper mill Propapier after Court judgment
    15 May 2013
    After the annulment of its 2008 decision to authorise a regional investment aid granted by Germany to Propapier for the construction of a paper mill in Eisenhüttenstadt (Brandenburg, Germany), the Commission has opened an investigation to reassess the measure in light of the guidance provided by the judgment of the EU General Court (case T-304/08). The Commission will assess whether the positive effects of the aid on regional development outweigh the potential distortion of competition and negative effect on trade between Member States created by the selective advantage granted to Propapier.
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  • Commission approves €39.8 million in aid for the “Genesys” research programme for the development of third-generation biorefineries
    15 May 2013
    The Commission has decided that the aid granted by France to the P.I.V.E.R.T. Institut d’Excellence en Énergies Décarbonées (IEED, institute of excellence in the field of low-carbon energy) to conduct the Genesys research and development programme complies with EU state aid rules. The aim of the project is to develop a new generation of biorefineries using biomass to produce, among other things, clean energy. The aid addresses a genuine market failure without giving rise to an undue distortion of competition.
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  • Commission authorises public co-financing of Copenhagen multiarena in Denmark
    15 May 2013
    The Commission has concluded that the proposed public co-financing of a new multiarena in Copenhagen, Denmark was in line with EU state aid rules. In particular, the Commission found that the public funding was both proportionate to the objective pursued and limited to the minimum necessary to attain that objective.
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  • Commission opens formal investigation into proposed public financing for Ford España
    15 May 2013
    The Commission has opened a formal investigation to examine whether Spanish plans to grant public financing to the Ford group for an investment project in the Valencia region are in line with EU state aid rules.
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  • Commission temporarily approves rescue aid for LOT Polish Airlines
    15 May 2013
    The Commission has concluded that a rescue loan of PLN 400 million (around €100 million) granted by the Polish government to LOT Polish Airlines was in line with EU state aid rules. The Commission found, in particular, that the aid was limited in time and scope. The Commission has approved the measure temporarily, until it can take a position on the restructuring plan to be submitted by Poland by 20 June 2013 (i.e. within six months from implementation of the measure).
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  • Commission clears new restructuring plan of Banco CEISS in view of its possible acquisition by Unicaja
    14 May 2013
    The Commission has concluded that a modification to Banco CEISS' restructuring plan, opening the door for an acquisition of the bank by Unicaja Banco, is in line with EU state aid rules. In particular, the Commission found that the integration into Unicaja Banco, a Spanish bank that has received no state aid during the crisis, will ensure that Banco CEISS becomes viable in the long term. In December 2012, the Commission had approved a restructuring plan for Banco CEISS which did not foresee an acquisition by Unicaja. The rest of the plan remains largely unchanged.
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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.

© European Union, 2013. Reproduction is authorised provided the source is acknowledged.

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