EU Competition

European Commission (Commission) closes antitrust proceedings against a number of cement manufacturers. On 31 July 2015, the Commission announced that it has closed an antitrust investigation it had opened in December 2010 against a number of cement manufacturers, in relation to suspected breaches of Article 101 of the TFEU. The Commission had opened the investigation following indications of possible import/export restrictions, market sharing, price coordination and information exchanges in the markets for cement and related products. The Commission announced that the evidence obtained in the Commission's investigation was not sufficiently conclusive to confirm these initial concerns.

Commission amends competition procedural rules and notices to reflect Directive on damages actions. On 3 August 2015, the Commission announced that it has adopted amendments to its antitrust procedural rules and notices to reflect the terms of Directive 2014/104 on Antitrust Damages Actions. The Commission has amended Regulation 773/2004, on the conduct of competition proceedings, by, in particular, introducing a new provision on limitation on the use of information obtained in the course of Commission proceedings. This reflects the restrictions on disclosure of leniency corporate statements and settlement submissions as contained in Directive 2014/104.

EU Mergers

Phase I Mergers

  • M.7585 NXP SEMICONDUCTORS / FREESCALE SEMICONDUCTOR (3 August 2015)
  • M.7631 ROYAL DUTCH SHELL / BG GROUP (5 August 2015)
  • M.7713 REWE ZF / KUONI REISEN AND RELATED GROUP COMPANIES (6 August 2015)
  • M.7723 KKR / REGGEBORGH / DEUTSCHE GLASFASER (7 August 2015)

State Aid

Commission opens in­depth state aid investigations into Romanian measures in favour of two airports and airlines. On 31 July 2015, the Commission announced that it has opened two separate in­depth state aid investigations into Romanian measures in favour of two airports in Transylvania, Romania (Cluj­Napoca International Airport and Târgu Mureş Transilvania Airport) and airlines operating there (notably Wizz Air). The investigations concern, in particular, marketing fees paid to Wizz Air by Cluj­Napoca International Airport and low airport charges offered by Târgu Mureş Transilvania Airport to airlines. The Commission will also investigate subsidies granted by local authorities to the airports. The Commission is assessing the compatibility of these measures with its 2014 Guidelines on state aid to airports and airlines.

Commission approves Irish state aid schemes for regional airports. On 31 July 2015, the Commission announced that it has approved two Irish state aid schemes for regional airports. The Commission has decided that the schemes are compatible with its 2014 Guidelines on state aid for airports and airlines. The Commission found that the schemes will improve regional connectivity and the mobility of EU citizens, in line with common EU transport objectives, whilst maintaining competition in the EU.

UK Competition

Court of Appeal upholds ruling on limitation in competition damages action against Visa. On 5 August 2015, the Court of Appeal dismissed an appeal by the claimants against a High Court judge ruling, that struck out certain claims, in an action for damages arising from alleged breaches of competition law by Visa. The Court of Appeal held that the High Court had not erred in ruling that any claims for any period earlier than six years prior to the commencement of the proceedings in 2013 are statute­barred under the Limitation Act 1980.

Competition Markets Authority (CMA) issues infringement decision to Consultant Eye Surgeons Partnership (CESP). On 5 August 2015, the CMA announced that, following settlement, it has now issued an infringement decision to CESP, the membership organisation of private consultant ophthalmologists. The infringement decision confirmed CESP’s breach of the Chapter I prohibition of the Competition Act 1998 and Article 101 of the TFEU. CESP has reached a settlement with the CMA whereby it has admitted to breaching competition law and to pay a fine of £500,000 to be reduced to £425,000 if it continues to co­operate in accordance with the settlement agreement.

CMA issues Statement of Objections to Pfizer and Flynn Pharma alleging abusive  pricing. On 6 August 2015, the CMA announced that it has sent a Statement of Objections to Pfizer and Flynn Pharma alleging that they have abused a dominant position in breach of Article 102 of the TFEU and the Chapter II prohibition of the Competition Act 1998. The CMA alleges that the companies have charged excessive and unfair prices for an anti­epilepsy drug (phenytoin sodium capsules).

High Court grants interim injunction to prevent discontinuation of services in abuse of dominance case. The High Court granted an interim injunction requested by Packet Media Limited to prevent Telefonica UK Limited (O2) from discontinuing services to SIM cards used in GSM Gateways. Packet Media claimed that, by threatening to switch­off services, O2 was acting in breach of the Radio Equipment and Telecommunications Terminal Equipment Regulations 2000 (RTTE Regulations) and the Chapter II prohibition of the Competition Act 1998.

Speeches / Publications / Consultations

Ofcom note on Procedural Officer procedures. On 31 July 2015, Ofcom published a note on the procedures of its Procedural Officer in relation to complaints about the procedures followed during the course of an Ofcom investigation under the Competition Act 1998. The note details the role of the Procedural Officer, the scope of procedural complaints that the Procedural Officer determines, and the process for parties under investigation to raise procedural issues with the Procedural Officer.

CMA further updated structure chart. On 3 August 2015, the CMA published a further revised version of its structure chart, which sets out the structure of the CMA as at August 2015.

The Competition Act 1998 (Redress Scheme) Regulations 2015. On 5 August 2015, the Competition Act 1998 (Redress Scheme) Regulations 2015 (SI 2015/1587) were published. These Regulations set out how the CMA, and sectoral regulators with concurrent powers, must consider applications for approval of a redress scheme, under the new provisions introduced by the Consumer Rights Act 2015. The Regulations come into force on 1 October 2015.

CMA consults on renewing public transport ticketing block exemption. On 5 August 2015, the CMA published a consultation on its proposal to recommend to the government that the existing public transport ticketing block exemption should be renewed until February 2026. The CMA has reached the provisional view that the block exemption continues to be justified. In particular, the ticketing arrangements covered by the block exemption continue to benefit consumers, the arrangements require co­ordination between transport operators, and there is a risk that such arrangements would not be entered into without the certainty of the block exemption.