Competition: Deutsche Telekom appeals Commission’s decision to fine Deutsche Telekom and its subsidiary Slovak Telekom for abusive conduct

On 23 March 2015, the Official Journal published news of Deutsche Telekom AG’s (“Deutsche Telekom”) appeal against the Commission's decision to fine it and its subsidiary Slovak Telekom a.s. (“Slovak Telekom”) for abusive conduct in the Slovak broadband market in breach of Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (“TFEU”). On 15 October 2014, the Commission announced that it had fined Slovak Telekom and its parent company Deutsche Telekom approximately EUR 38 million for pursuing a strategy for more than five years to keep competitors out of the Slovak market for broadband services. The Commission found that Slovak Telekom refused to supply access to unbundled local loops in the Slovak Republic and engaged in margin squeezing. The Commission held Deutsche Telekom, as a parent company, jointly and severally liable for the infringement.  Deutsche Telekom has now asked the General Court to annul the Commission's decision in so far as said decision applies to it. Deutsche Telekom claims that the Commission made manifest errors in the assessment of facts and errors of law in the determination of abusive conduct. In this regard, Deutsche Telekom also alleges the Commission infringed on its rights of defense. In addition, Deutsche Telekom argues that the Commission made manifest errors in the assessment of the facts and errors of law in the determination of the duration of the infringement as well as in the assessment of the facts and errors of law in attributing the infringement to Deutsche Telekom. Further, Deutsche Telekom alleges that the Commission made errors of law by imposing a separate fine on it. Finally, Deutsche Telekom claims that the Commission erred in setting the amount of the fine. Source: Case T-827/14 – Deutsche Telekom v Commission, Official Journal C 96/21, 23 March 2015

Competition: Commission sends Statement of Objections to Bulgarian Energy Holding and its subsidiaries for suspected abuse of dominance on Bulgarian natural gas markets

On 23 March 2015, the Commission announced that it has sent a Statement of Objections (“SO”) to a state-owned energy company Bulgarian Energy Holding (“BEH”) informing it of the Commission's preliminary view that BEH may have breached the Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (“TFEU”) by hindering competitors’ access to key gas infrastructures in Bulgaria. The SO is also addressed to BEH's gas supply subsidiary Bulgargaz and its gas infrastructure subsidiary Bulgartransgaz. BEH supplies gas and its subsidiaries own or control the domestic Bulgarian gas transmission network, the only gas storage facility in Bulgaria and the capacity on the main gas import pipeline into Bulgaria. At this stage, the Commission has concerns that BEH and its subsidiaries have refused to give competitors access to the gas transmission network and the gas storage facility. The Commission is also concerned that the companies in question have reserved capacity they do not need on the gas import pipeline. The sending of an SO is a formal step in the Commission’s investigation and it does not  prejudge the outcome of the investigation. Source: Commission Press Release 23/3/2015

Competition: Court of Justice of the European Union dismisses appeal in banana importers cartel case

On 19 March 2015, the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) handed down its judgment dismissing an appeal brought by Dole Food Company, Inc. (“Dole Food”) and Dole Fresh Fruit Europe (“DFFE”), formerly Dole Germany OGH (together, “Dole”) against the General Court (“GC”) judgment of 2013 in the banana importers cartel. Dole Food, of the US, is an agricultural company active in the markets for bananas, pineapples, grapes, salads, and other fresh and frozen fruits and juices. DFFE is a subsidiary of Dole Food established in Germany.  In October 2008, the Commission announced that it had imposed fines totaling EUR 60.3 million on Dole, Fresh Del Monte Produce, Inc. (“Del Monte”) and Internationale Fruchtimport Gesellschaft Weichert & Co. KG (“Weichert”) for participating in a banana cartel in Northern Europe. The Commission found that cartel members coordinated their quotation prices for bananas marketed in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Sweden, between 1 January 2000 and 31 December 2002. In December 2008, Dole brought an action for annulment of the Commission's decision before the GC, which dismissed the appeal in March 2013.  In May 2013, Dole appealed the GC’s decision to the CJEU claiming, in particular, that the GC made a number of procedural errors which breached its rights of defense. In addition, Dole submitted that the GC distorted the facts relating to the nature of the quotation prices. In its ruling, the CJEU concluded that the GC had not manifestly distorted evidence or committed errors in its assessment of the infringements. Accordingly, the CJEU confirmed that the GC had not committed any procedural errors and dismissed the appeal in its entirety. Del Monte and the Commission have also appealed the GC’s judgments challenging the Commission’s decision. These cases are still pending before the CJEU. Source: Case C-286/13 P – Dole Food Company Inc and Dole Fresh Fruit Europe v Commission, judgment of 19 March 2015

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 acquisition of Indaqua by Mota Engil and Talanx
  • Commission approves acquisition of Acenden and AMS by The Blackstone Group and TPG
  • Commission approves acquisition of Azelis by Apax Partners in the chemical sector
  • Commission approves joint venture between ArcelorMittal and CLN for steel service centres in Italy
  • Commission approves joint venture between Styrolution and Braskem in industrial resins sector
  • Commission approves acquisition of turbine generator manufacturer by Centerbridge
  • Commission approves acquisition of joint control over AsiaSat by Carlyle and CITIC
  • Commission approves acquisition of Scotrail franchise by Abellio Scotrail