On 2nd December 2015, the Italian Competition Authority (the “ICA”) opened an in-depth investigation into Enel Distribuzione S.p.A. (also referred as “Enel” or the “Accused Company”) for alleged infringements of Article 102 Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (“TFEU”), the prohibition against the abuse of dominance.
Enel is one of the companies of the state-owned Enel Group, operating in the market for the distribution of electrical energy in all the Italian territory.
The investigation started after a complaint filed with the ICA by the Italian company AEM Acotel Engineering and Manufacturing S.p.A. (also referred as “Acotel”), which reported that Enel would implement measures aimed at hindering Acotel’s commercial activity in the market of smart metering services.
Smart metering services measure the consumption of energy, giving more information than traditional devices, and transmitting data using an electronic means of communication.
Enel provides smart metering services too and is one of the most important competitors of Acotel in the relevant market. Further, Enel manufactures and distributes the electrical energy meters to monitor the consumption of electrical energy.
The ICA feared that Enel could implement obstacles in order to drive Acotel out of the smart metering services market.
First, the ICA’s investigation found that Enel could remove the Acotel electronic system from its electrical energy meters without a reasonable justification; secondly Enel would impede the physical access of Acotel’s devices to its energy meters and finally Enel would deny access to the technical information needed in certain circumstances for Acotel’s devices to work properly.
The ICA stressed that the Accused Company -- holding an alleged dominant position in the market of the distribution of the electrical energy (upstream market) -- may increase its economic power also on the related market of smart metering services through such conduct.
Therefore, the ICA feared that Enel would abuse its dominant position by making it difficult for Acotel to operate into the downstream market of smart metering services, violating Article 102 of the TFEU.
At the time of writing the accusations mentioned above are unfounded and the investigation continues.