EU Competition

Commission sends statement of objections to Google alleging breach of Article 102 by favouring its own comparison shopping product. On 15 April 2015, the European Commission announced that it has sent a statement of objections to Google alleging that it has breached Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) by abusing its dominant position in the European Economic Area markets for general internet search services by favouring its own comparison shopping product in its general search results pages. The Commission alleges that this artificially diverts traffic from rival comparison shopping  services and hinders their ability to compete on the market. Therefore, users do not necessarily see the most relevant results in response to queries. This is to the detriment of consumers and also stifles innovation.

Commission opens formal investigation into Google’s conduct in relation to Android mobile operating system. On 15 April 2015, the European Commission announced that it has opened formal proceedings to investigate whether Google has breached Article 101 and/or Article 102 of the TFEU by virtue of its conduct in relation to the Android mobile operating system. The investigation relates to certain conditions in Google’s agreements for the use of Android and Google’s proprietary applications and services. The Commission’s investigation will focus on whether Google has hindered the development and market access of rival mobile operating systems, applications and services to the detriment of consumers and developers of innovative services and products

European Court of Human Rights upholds claims regarding right to a fair trial and right to private and family life in the context of dawn raids. On 2 April 2015, the European Court of Human Rights upheld applications by Vinci Construction France and GTM Génie Civil et Services regarding claims that their rights to a fair trial and to private and family life (particularly with regard to documents protected by legal professional privilege) had been violated in breach of Articles 6 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights respectively. Their applications were made in the context of unannounced inspections carried out by the French competition authority on the companies in 2007

EU Mergers

Phase I Mergers

  • M.7480 – ACTAVIS / ALLERGAN (13/04/2015)
  • M.7507 – WÄRTSILÄ / L­3 MSI (15/04/2015)
  • M.7517 – HEBEI IRON & STEEL GROUP / DPH / DUFERCO INTERNATIONAL TRADING HOLDING (16/04/2015)
  • M.7556 – EURAZEO / GROUPE CREDIT AGRICOLE / SCI FUTURE WAY / SCI NEW WAY (13/04/2015)

State Aid

Commission approves modification of Dutch state aid scheme for renewable energy. On 10 April 2015, the European Commission announced that it has approved modifications to an existing Dutch state aid scheme that supports the production of electricity, gas and heat from renewable sources. The Dutch scheme, Stimulering Duurzame Energieproductie, is expected to make an important contribution to the decarbonisation of the economy. It is based on a competitive bidding process among all forms of renewable energy to determine the level of the premiums that will be paid to the beneficiaries.

European Court of Justice (ECJ) preliminary reference on whether state aid rules apply  to a mortgage over land. On 16 April 2015, the ECJ handed down its preliminary reference on a question from a Greek court on whether the EU state aid rules apply to a mortgage granted over land, given the substantive and procedural privileges granted to the mortgagor bank. The ECJ concluded that Article 107(1) of the TFEU may cover privileges, such as where a bank is granted the right to register unilaterally a mortgage over land belonging to those engaged in agricultural activities, can seek enforcement with an ordinary private document and is exempted from fees and duties for registering that mortgage. However, the referring court should determine whether these privileges constituted compensation for the services provided by that bank in discharging public service obligations.

Trade

EU court dismisses Schenker Customs Agency’s appeal against dumping tariffs. On 16 April 2015, the EU’s General Court rejected claims by a Dutch customs agent, Schenker Customs Agency, that it should avoid paying anti­dumping duties on imports of glyphosate. The agent said the imports were from Taiwan, but a fraud investigation revealed the glyphosate was coming from China, which is subject to the tariffs.

ECJ ruling on whether preliminary competition investigation should be taken into account in application of anti­dumping rules. On 16 April 2015, the ECJ handed down its preliminary ruling on a reference from the Berlin­Brandenberg Finance Court regarding whether the existence of a preliminary competition investigation should have been taken into account when applying anti­dumping legislation. The ECJ has found that the Commission’s preliminary investigation did not affect the validity of Regulation 2320/97. In particular, the ECJ found that TMK Europe had not provided any evidence to show that factors other than those relating to imports could have been so significant as to call into question the existence of a causal link between the harm suffered by the EU industry and the dumped imports.

Speeches / Publications / Consultations / Communications

Speech by Margrethe Vestager on the tasks of competition enforcers. On 9 April 2015, the European Commission published a speech by Margrethe Vestager, Commissioner for Competition, on the tasks of competition enforcers. She discusses the work being done by the Commission to complete the single market, and the need for this. She also explains the role of the Commission in antitrust enforcement and reviewing mergers. The Commissioner also briefly explains why she intends to launch a sector inquiry on e­commerce.

Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) note on lessons learnt in care home medicines case. On 14 April 2015, the CMA published a note on lessons learnt from the care home medicines case. The CMA considers that this case demonstrates that it is an unlawful form of market­sharing for a company to agree not to target a competitor’s customers. It also shows the benefits in terms of immunity and fine reduction under the leniency policy of “doing the right  thing” and reporting illegal activity to the CMA. Further, it demonstrates that the actions of subsidiary companies can have damaging repercussions for parent companies.

CMA notice on SME qualitative research in retail banking market investigation. On 16  April 2015, the CMA published a notice announcing that it has appointed Research Works Ltd, a market research agency, to undertake qualitative research in relation to SMEs as part of the retail banking market investigation. The aim of the research is to provide the CMA with a better understanding of the motivations for SMEs’ behaviour.