EU Competition

European Court of Justice (ECJ) reference on compatibility with Article 101 of national measure imposing minimum prices for tobacco products. On 10 August 2015, details were published in the Official Journal of a Belgian Court’s request for the ECJ to give a preliminary ruling on the compatibility with EU law of national measures that require retailers to respect minimum prices for tobacco products. In particular, the Belgian Court asks the ECJ whether Article 4(3) of the TEU, read in conjunction with Article 101 of the TFEU, precludes a national measure which requires retailers to respect minimum prices by prohibiting the application of a price for tobacco products which is lower than the price that the manufacturer/importer has affixed to the revenue stamp.

EU Mergers

Phase I Mergers

  • M.7722 ­ 3i Group / AMP Capital Investors / ESVAGT (5 August 2015)
  • M.7652 ­ Raiffeisen Zentralbank Osterriech / Valida Holding (5 August 2015)
  • M.7220 ­ Mahindra World City Developers / Sumitomo / JV (6 August 2015)

State Aid

European Commission (Commission) approves prolonged Czech support for biofuels. On 12 August 2015, the Commission announced that it has decided to prolong a Czech aid scheme to support certain biofuels under EU state aid rules, in particular its 2014 Guidelines on State aid for environmental protection and energy. The Commission concluded that the scheme would further EU energy and environmental objectives without unduly distorting competition in the Single Market. The scheme was originally approved by the Commission in 2008. It provides for excise duty reductions or refunds in favour of pure or highly­concentrated biofuel placed on the Czech market, provided that it meets the required sustainability criteria. The Commission has approved the extension of the scheme from 1 July 2015 to 31 December 2020.

Trade

Maxcom Ltd appeals against extension of anti­dumping duties. On 10 August 2015, details were published in the Official Journal of an appeal to the European Court of Justice brought by Maxcom Ltd, an East European bicycle manufacturer, against the General Court’s ruling that annulled the extension of definitive anti­dumping duties imposed on bicycles from China to bicycles consigned from Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Tunisia.

Speeches & Publications

Commission procures studies following consultation on future of Insurance Block Exemption Regulation. On 7 August 2015, the Commission published a contract notice to procure studies of issues relating to the application of the Insurance Block Exemption Regulation (Regulation 267/2010). The studies will focus on two issues identified by the Commission from its review of responses to its August 2014 invitation of views on the functioning and future of the Block Exemption. The first study will consider the switching of tangible and intangible assets between different insurance products. The second study will consider different forms of co­ operation of insurance companies and their respective impact on competition.

CMA publishes two further working papers in retail banking market investigation. On 7 August 2015, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published two working papers as part of its retail banking market investigation. The first paper summarises the results of the CMA's analysis of the actual and perceived behaviour of personal current account (PCA) customers. The second paper provides an update on the pricing analysis work being conducted in relation to business current accounts and PCAs. The CMA invites comments on both working papers by 21 August 2015. On 13 August 2015, the CMA published a further paper on the role that bank branches play in retail banking.

CMA amends guidance on variation and termination of undertakings and orders. On 12 August 2015, the CMA published an updated version of its guidance on the variation and termination of merger, monopoly and market undertakings and orders. The variation clarifies the procedure in cases where the original Inquiry Group that decided on the order or the undertakings in Enterprise Act 2002 merger or market investigation cases no longer exists (due to the elapse of time). In such cases, the CMA Board will either authorise a sub­committee, the Remedy Group, to take the decision on variation or termination, or advise senior officials on taking the decision.