Competition (Finland): Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority investigates harmonization of time-based measurement of electricity transmission

On 15 April 2016, the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority ("FCCA") announced that it is investigating a recommendation issued by Finnish Energy (Energiateollisuus Ry) concerning the harmonization of the time-based measurement of electricity transmission. The FCCA is investigating whether competition has been limited within Finnish Energy by agreeing to harmonize the time-based measurement of electricity sales and transmission in order to comply with the related recommendation. The FCCA announced that it has conducted a surprise inspection at the premises of Finnish Energy.

The FCCA has a right to carry out inspections at company premises under the Competition Act in order to investigate competition law infringements. The fact that the FCCA carries out such inspections does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation. Source: Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority Press Release 15/04/2016

Competition: Commission sends Statement of Objections to Google on Android operating system and applications

On 20 April 2016, the Commission sent a Statement of Objections ("SO") to Google setting out its preliminary view that Google has abused its dominant position in breach of EU competition rules by imposing restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile network operators.

In the Commission's preliminary view, Google has implemented a strategy on mobile devices to preserve and strengthen its dominance in general internet search. The Commission claims in the SO that Google abuses its dominant position, first, by setting as a condition on licensing certain Google proprietary apps the requirement on manufacturers to pre-install Google Search and Google's Chrome browser and to set Google Search as default search service on their devices. Further, Google prevents manufacturers from selling smart mobile devices running on competing operating systems based on the Android open source code, and, finally, gives financial incentives to manufacturers and mobile network operators on condition that they exclusively pre-install Google Search on their devices.

The Commission believes that these business practices may further consolidate the dominant position of Google Search in general internet search services. In addition, the Commission is concerned that these practices affect the ability of competing mobile browsers to compete with Google Chrome, and that they hinder the development of operating systems based on the Android open source code and the opportunities they would offer for the development of new apps and services. Therefore, in the Commission's preliminary view, this conduct ultimately harms consumers because they are not given as wide a choice as possible and because it stifles innovation.

This investigation is distinct and separate from the Commission's ongoing formal investigation under EU competition rules of other aspects of Google's behavior in the EEA, including on the favorable treatment by Google in its general search results of its own other specialized search services, and concerns with regard to copying of rivals' web content (known as "scraping"), advertising exclusivity and undue restrictions on advertisers. Source: Commission Press Release 20/04/2016 and Commission Press Release – Factsheet 20/04/2016

Competition (Sweden): Swedish Competition Authority's investigation of OnlinePizza's partnership agreements

On 9 October 2015, the Swedish Competition Authority ("SCA") received a complaint concerning OnlinePizza Norden AB's ("OnlinePizza") partnership agreements. The complaint alleged that OnlinePizza demanded indirectly exclusivity from restaurants in a manner which prevented restaurants from being connected to OnlinePizza's competitor Apphero Sweden AB ("Pizzahero") at the same time as being connected to OnlinePizza. Both companies offer online ordering platforms for restaurants for the pick-up and delivery of food.

According to the SCA, there is a risk that competition will be restrained if an undertaking requires customers or suppliers to connect exclusively to one platform, which may lead to a foreclosure of competing platforms as well as restrictions on new establishments. The effects are partially influenced by the size of the platforms' respective market power and the proportion of relevant customers and suppliers covered by the procedures, the SCA states.

Therefore, the SCA initiated an investigation to determine if OnlinePizza's actions implicate a risk of such competition restraints. However, the investigation did not show that OnlinePizza has demanded exclusivity in practice. Moreover, OnlinePizza amended the clause concerned in its partnership agreements so as to clarify that OnlinePizza has the right to terminate the agreement based on objective reasons if, for instance, the restaurant, engages in unfair marketing. On that basis, the SCA has decided to close its investigation. Source: Swedish Competition Authority Press Release 15/4/2016 (in Swedish) and Swedish Competition Authority Decision 14/04/2016 (in Swedish)

Public procurement: New EU public procurement rules become applicable

On 18 April 2016, the Commission announced that Member States and their public authorities must from subsequently comply with the three directives on public procurement and concessions adopted in 2014 ("Directives"). The Directives provide for simplification and greater flexibility of the procedural regime set by the old rules dating back to 2004. Further, the Directives seek to ensure greater inclusion of common societal goals in the procurement process and to provide concrete measures to remove barriers for market access by small and medium-sized enterprises. Furthermore, the new regime seeks to ensure that contracting authorities take appropriate measures to prevent, identify and remedy conflicts of interest in procurement procedures so as to avoid any distortion of competition and ensure equal treatment of all economic operators. Moreover, the Directives contain obligations for Member States to monitor and report on public procurement activity in order to improve the efficacy and uniform application of EU law in this field. Finally, the Directives contain new elements, such as the possibility for tenderers to be self-cleaned, i.e., the ability for a tenderer that is subject to an exclusion ground to participate in a tender competition if the tenderer has been able to prove its reliability despite the existence of the exclusion ground. Source: Commission Press Release 18/04/2016

In addition, kindly note the following merger control decisions by the Commission which are published on the website of the Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition:

  • Commission approves joint venture between the Erste Group Bank and Global Payments in the Czech Republic, Romania and Slovakia
  • Commission approves acquisition of Akiem by DAAM Global and Ermewa