On 22 April 2015, the EC sent a Statement of Objections to Gazprom alleging several abuses of its dominant market position in the EU. This is clearly a highly politicised case and one which shows that the EC is willing to take action against any potentially anti-competitive activities which have an effect in the EU, regardless of the nationality or ownership of the company involved.
The EC’s preliminary view is that Gazprom is breaking EU antitrust rules by pursuing an overall strategy to partition Central and Eastern European natural gas markets, for example, by reducing its customers’ ability to resell the gas cross-border. This may have enabled Gazprom to charge unfair prices in certain EU Member States. Gazprom may also have sought to leverage its dominant market into other markets.
The resale restrictions allegedly used include export bans and clauses requiring the purchased gas to be used in a specific territory (destination clauses). Gazprom has also allegedly used other measures that prevented the cross-border flow of gas, such as obliging wholesalers to obtain its agreement to export gas and refusing under certain circumstances to change the location to which the gas should be delivered. All of these types of activities are equally problematic whatever the industry concerned.
The unfair pricing and leveraging elements are also interesting and generally applicable. In relation to pricing, the concern is that Gazprom has been charging prices to wholesalers that are unfairly high compared to Gazprom’s costs or to benchmark prices. In relation to leveraging, the concern is that Gazprom is making gas supplies to Bulgaria and Poland conditional on obtaining unrelatedcommitments from wholesalers concerning gas transport infrastructure promoted by Gazprom. For example, gas supplies were made dependent on investments in a pipeline project promoted by Gazprom or on accepting Gazprom’s reinforcement of its control over a pipeline.