EU Competition

European Court of Human Rights holds that dawn raids in France broke fundamental rights rules. On 2 April 2015, the Court ruled that dawn raids, carried out by France’s Department of Competition, Consumer Protection and Fraud at Vinci Construction France and GTM Genie Civil et Services, infringed the companies’ fundamental rights to a fair trial and respect for the home. The raids had been carried out in Nanterre in 2007 on suspicions that the two construction companies had breached competition laws. The Court found that the raids had been “disproportionate” and ordered France to pay EUR 15,000.

Cartels

Appeal by Infineon against smart card chip cartel decision. On 30 March 2015, details were published in the Official Journal of an appeal lodged by Infineon Technologies AG (Infineon) against the European Commission’s decision on the smart card chip cartel. Infineon claims that the Commission breached its right to be heard and its rights of defence. Infineon also alleges that the Commission failed to establish that Infineon’s contacts with competitors breached Article 101(1) of the TFEU and erred in applying the concept of a “single and continuous infringement”. Finally, Infineon claims that the Commission made various errors in calculating the fine imposed on it.

Court of Justice of the European Union appeals General Court order in Kendrion  damages action for excessively long court proceedings. On 30 March 2015, details were published of an action brought by the Court of Justice of the European Union against an order of the General Court rejecting the objection of inadmissibility raised by the Court of Justice against  a claim made by Kendrion.  Kendrion’s claim was for damages for harm suffered as a result of delay by the European Courts in adjudicating its appeal against the industrial bags cartel. On 6 January 2015, the General Court rejected the Court of Justice’s claim that Kendrion’s damages action was inadmissible as being directed against the Union represented by the Court of Justice, and not against the Union represented by the Commission. The Court of Justice has lodged an appeal against the General Court’s order, claiming that the rules on representation of the European Union before its judicial bodies have not been observed and that the obligation to state reasons has not been complied with.

EU Mergers

Phase I Clearance

  • M.7513 – AR PACKAGING GROUP / MWV EUROPEAN TOBACCO AND GENERAL PACKAGING FOLDING CARTON OPERATIONS (1/04/2015)
  • M.7514 – AMERICAN EXPRESS / CREDIT SUISSE / SWISSCARD (31/03/2015)
  • M.7539 – GIP II / ACS / DEVCO (30/03/2015)

State Aid

Commission approves German exemptions from mandatory rebates for pharmaceutical companies. On 27 March 2015, the European Commission announced that following an in­ depth investigation, it has decided to approve under Article 107(3)(c) of the TFEU, a German scheme exempting pharmaceutical companies in financial difficulties from mandatory rebates.

Commission decides that majority of derogations from British Aggregates Levy are not state aid. On 27 March 2015, the European Commission announced its decision that all but one of the exemptions, exclusions and tax reliefs from the aggregates levy introduced in the UK in 2002 are free of state aid. The British aggregates levy is a tax on aggregates, which aims to encourage the use of recycled aggregates and reduce environmental damage. It is levied on rock, sand or gravel on their first extraction as well as on processed products. Derogations apply to certain extraction processes and to materials with certain geological features.

Commission orders Romania to recover incompatible state aid granted in compensation for abolished investment aid scheme. On 30 March 2015, the European Commission announced that it has decided under the state aid rules to require Romania to recover incompatible state aid granted in compensation for an abolished investment aid scheme. Romania abolished the investment scheme, on the basis that it was incompatible with the state aid rules, prior to its accession to the EU. However, an arbitration tribunal ordered Romania to pay compensation on the basis that the abolition of the investment breached a bilateral investment treaty with Sweden.

UK Competition

CMA publishes summary of decision to reject request by Worldpay UK Limited (Worldpay) for interim measures in Visa interchange fees investigation. On 27 March  2015, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published a summary of a decision to reject a request by Worldpay for interim measures in the context of the CMA’s Visa interchange fees investigation. Worldpay, a provider of payment services to merchants, sought a direction to require Visa to align its UK domestic multilateral interchange fees with those that apply to cross­ border transactions from 1 January 2015, in accordance with binding commitments given to the European Commission. The CMA concluded that Worldpay would not suffer significant damage in the absence of urgent intervention. In particular, it was more likely than not that Worldpay would itself be able to process cross­border acquired transactions for UK merchants in early January 2015 and so it would not be damaged by its UK merchant customers switching their custom to cross­border acquirers.

Speeches & Publications

CMA “60 second” summary guidance on compliance and leniency. On 27 March 2015, the CMA published two “60 second” summaries providing advice to businesses on compliance with competition law. The first summary provides company secretaries with a quick guide on how to identify actions that may put a business at risk of breaching competition law. The second summary provides brief guidance on the CMA’s leniency policy, explaining the benefits, consequences and basic conditions of applying for leniency (advising applicants to contact the CMA as early as possible).

Speech by Alex Chisholm reflecting on the CMA’s first year. On 30 March 2015, the CMA published a speech by Alex Chisholm, CMA Chief Executive, in which he reflects on the CMA’s first year of operation. He considers that the CMA has made a promising start, but recognises that further work is needed to achieve its ambition to be recognised as a world­class competition and consumer agency making a real difference for consumers, businesses and the UK  economy.