Competition (Finland): Working Group proposes changes to Finnish Competition Act

On 14 March 2017, the Working Group on reforming the Competition Act ("Working Group") submitted a report proposing amendments to the Finnish Competition Act. The Working Group's assignment was to examine the current Competition Act from the perspectives of competition control and economic operators' legal protection. The Working Group proposes that the Competition Act be amended concerning inspections, sanctions, and information exchanges between the authorities. The report includes statements and dissenting opinions, and it will be subject to public consultation until 15 May 2017.

Source: Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment Press Release, 14/3/2017

Competition: CJEU upholds fines on Samsung SDI for involvement in cathode ray tubes cartels

On 9 March, the Court of Justice of the European Union ("CJEU") upheld a decision by the General Court ("GC") and the Commission to impose a fine of EUR 69.4 million jointly and severally on Samsung SDI and Samsung SDI (Malaysia) for their involvement in a cartel relating to CDT (a cathode ray tube technique previously used in computer monitors). The CJEU also upheld a fine of EUR 81.4 million imposed jointly and severally on Samsung SDI, Samsung SDI (Malaysia), and Samsung SDI Germany for their involvement in a cartel relating to CPT (a cathode ray tube technique previously used in televisions). The Commission fined the Samsung in December 2012, which fine Samsung appealed and the GC upheld in September 2015.

The alleged cartels lasted between 1996/1997 and 2006. In its appeal to the CJEU, Samsung argued that it was discriminated against because other participants in the cartel were not fined. However, the CJEU stated that a company cannot request annulment or reduction of a fine based on the fact that another participant in the cartel was not penalized for its participation in the cartel. Further, the CJEU stated that the GC was correct in including the value of sales negotiated in South Korea that affected products delivered to the EEA when determining the amount of sales within the EEA. Moreover, the CJEU concluded that it does not have to make its own determination of the amount of fines unless it considers the amount imposed by the GC to be inappropriate and excessive to the point of being disproportionate, which the CJEU did not find to be the case.

Source: Court Of Justice of the European Union Press Release 09/03/2017 and Source: Case C‑615/15 P Samsung SDI and others v Commission, Judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union, 9 March 2017 

Competition: Commission invites comments on Gazprom commitments concerning Central and Eastern European gas markets

On 13 March, the Commission published an invitation for comments on Gazprom's commitments concerning Central and Eastern European gas markets. Gazprom holds the biggest reserves of natural gas in the world and the company is partly owned by the Russian government. The Commission sent a Statement of Objection in April 2015 regarding an alleged breach of EU competition rules by Gazprom. The Commission argued that Gazprom is exploiting its position as the dominant gas supplier in several Central and Eastern European countries.

According to the Commission the commitments proposed by Gazprom address the Commission's competition concerns. In short, Gazprom's commitments consist of three parts:

• Enabling the free flow of gas in Central and Eastern Europe by removing all direct and indirect contractual restrictions that prevent or make it less economically attractive to re-sell gas cross-border. Gazprom has also committed to facilitate market interconnections with Bulgaria and to create opportunities for more gas flows to the Baltic States and Bulgaria.

• Ensuring competitive gas prices in Central and Eastern Europe by introducing a link to competitive benchmarks such as Western European hub prices into its price review clauses. Gazprom has also committed to increase the frequency and speed of price revisions and to include such provisions that are not included in some current agreements.

• Remove demands obtained through Gazprom's dominant position, such as demands made in relation to the South Stream and Yamal pipeline projects.

Provided these commitments are made legally binding on Gazprom, it will face a fine up to 10 % of its global turnover for a breach of the commitments. Stakeholders now have seven weeks to submit their views regarding the commitments.

Source: Commission Press Release 13/03/2017