On 23 September 2015, the Investigation and Prosecution Service of the Belgian Competition Authority imposed a fine of EUR 1.190 million on the National Lottery for abuse of a dominant position in the context of the launch of its new sports betting product Scooore! The National Lottery has a legal monopoly in the organization of public lotteries. Besides public lotteries, since 2013 the National Lottery has also offered sports betting under the brand name Scooore!
In May 2013, Stanleybet, Sagevas, WFA and PMU, active in the sports betting sector in Belgium, filed complaints with the Belgian Competition Authority against the National Lottery. The complaints related to:
- the use of data acquired in the context of a monopoly;
- the blocking by the National Lottery of a licence for sports betting;
- the use of the lottery image for the promotion of Scooore!;
- cross-subsidization and the use by the National Lottery of tangible and intangible resources from its monopoly; and
- the exclusivity and non-competition clauses in the agreement between the National Lottery and newsagents.
Following these complaints, the Investigation and Prosecution Service mounted a dawn raid on the National Lottery in July 2013. The investigation focused on the National Lottery's use of contact details of persons registered in its IGS database (as part of its legal monopoly) to send an email in January 2013 announcing the launch of Scooore! At the end of its investigation, the Investigation and Prosecution Service concluded that the National Lottery had indeed used these contact details assembled in the context of its legal monopoly and not following competition on merits. This data, due to its nature and size, could not have been reproduced by competitors in the market at reasonable financial conditions and within a reasonable period of time.
On 23 September 2015, the settlement procedure, which was launched at the end of 2014, led to a decision establishing the infringement and imposing a fine of EUR 1.190 million. In the context of the settlement, the National Lottery acknowledged its involvement in the infringement as described in the decision, which cannot be appealed, and accepted the sanction, allowing it a 10% reduction on the fine. The National Lottery also benefited from mitigating circumstances due to the absence of proven restrictive effect on competition and full cooperation. The Investigation and Prosecution Service dismissed the complaints relating to all other grievances.
This case is the first settlement procedure in Belgium regarding an abuse of dominance and the first case stating that the use of data infringes competition law. It opens the door to further actions brought by competitors of existing or former monopolistic undertakings.