EU Competition

For a table showing the EU – Phase I merger notifications published in the Official Journal click here.

Commission sends statement of objections to participants in alleged power cables cartel On 6 July 2011, the European Commission (“Commission”) announced that it has sent a statement of objections to 12 companies that it believes may have participated in a cartel for submarine and underground power submarine and underground power cables (used for the transmission and distribution of electrical power and to connect generation capacity to the electricity grid or to interconnect power grids) The Commission has not revealed the name of the companies at this stage. Read more

Commission publishes summary of consumer detergents cartel decision On 2 July 2011, the Commission published a summary of its April 2011 decision to impose fines on producers of washing powder for participation in an illegal cartel, in violation of Article 101 of the TFEU. The Commission found that Henkel, Procter & Gamble and Unilever engaged in a single and continuous infringement involving heavy duty laundry detergent powders intended for machine washing and sold to consumers. The cartel covered Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain and The Netherlands. Henkel received full immunity from fines under the Leniency Notice as it was the first to inform the Commission about the cartel. The Commission fined Procter & Gamble EUR211,200,000 and Unilever EUR104,000,000, including the 10% settlement reduction. Read more

WWTE appeals against General Court judgment on Spanish raw tobacco cartel On 1 July 2011, details were published of an appeal by World Wide Tobacco Espana (“WWTE”) against the General Court’s judgment on WWTE’s appeal against the Commission decision to fine it for participation in the Spanish raw tobacco cartel. WWTE claims that the General Court and Commission erred in relation to the deterrent factor applied and by failing to take into account the fact that the cartel agreement was not implemented. Read more

UK Competition

DCMS statement on acquisition of BSkyB by News Corporation On 8 July 2011, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (“DCMS”) issued a statement in relation to the proposed acquisition by News Corporation of BskyB. The statement refers to the consultation on revised undertakings being considered in lieu of referring the acquisition to the Competition Commission under the Enterprise Act 2002. The consultation period ended on 8 July 2011, and it has been reported in the press that over 200,000 submissions in relation to the revised undertakings have been lodged mainly in response to phone hacking activities by News of the World. Read more

CAT refuses Interclass permission to appeal against revised penalty for cover pricing On 5 July 2011, the Competition Appeal Tribunal (“CAT”) refused an application by Interclass for permission to appeal against the revised penalty imposed by the CAT in its judgment on Interclass’s appeal against the Office of Fair Trading’s (“OFT”) construction cover pricing decision. The CAT had reduced the total penalty imposed on Interclass from £464,406 to £324,000. Interclass argued that the fine imposed was still disproportionate and unjust. Read more

High Court ruling on disclosure in follow-on damages action arising from gas insulated switchgear cartel decision On 4 July 2011, the High Court handed down a ruling on disclosure in a damages action brought by National Grid Electricity Transmission plc (“NGET”) against certain participants in the gas insulated switchgear cartel. The Court has granted an application by NGET for two of the defendants (ABB and Siemens) to disclose their responses to information requests from the Commission relating to two other defendants (Alstom and Areva) that they had obtained as part of their right to access to the Commission’s file. NGET also requested access to certain leniency documents prepared by ABB and to the confidential version of the Commission’s decision. The High Court has adjourned this part of the application to a further hearing to give the Commission the opportunity to make submissions on this in light of the recent ECJ ruling in Pfleiderer on access to leniency documents. Read more

OFT to seek undertakings in lieu in merger of Integrated Dental Holdings and Associated Dental Practices On 1 July 2011, the OFT published its decision to seek undertakings in lieu of referring the completed joint venture between the Carlyle Group and Palamon Capital Partners LP for the acquisition of Integrated Dental Holdings Group and Associated Dental Practices to the Competition Commission under the Enterprise Act 2002. The OFT has concerns that the merged entity may have the incentive and ability to reduce competition on non-price factors in the provision of NHS dentistry and orthodontic services in certain local areas. Carlyle Group and Palamon Capital Partners have agreed to divest the entire increment resulting from the merger in the affected local areas to an up-front buyer. Read more

CAT makes price control reference in mobile call termination appeals On 1 July 2011, the CAT published an order referring to the Competition Commission specified price control matters in the appeals by British Telecommunications plc, Vodafone Ltd, Hutchison 3G UK Limited and Everything Everywhere Ltd against Ofcom’s 2011 decision on the wholesale mobile voice call termination price control. The CAT ordered the Competition Commission to determine whether Ofcom erred in its approach to setting the charge controls. Read more

State Aid

Commission temporarily approves rescue aid for Bank of Ireland On 11 July 2011 the Commission granted temporary approval, under EU state aid rules, to the recapitalisation of Bank of Ireland (“BoI”) by the Irish authorities of up to €5.35 billion. A prudential capital assessment review carried out by the Central bank was required under the Programme for Support for Ireland agreed in November 2010 between the Irish authorities, on the one hand, and the EU, ECB and IMF, on the other hand. The Irish State will underwrite the issue of new rights by BoI for up to €4.35 billion. Another €1 billion will be provided as contingent capital. Read more

Commission opens in-depth state aid investigation into tax benefits granted by Spain for the purchase of ships On 1 July 2011, the European Commission announced that it has decided to open an in-depth state aid investigation into tax benefits granted by Spain for the purchase of ships. The Commission is concerned that the scheme grants advantages to the investors and companies taking part in the scheme and may not be compatible with the Commission guidelines on state aid for shipping. Read more

Commission clears German tax exemption for flights to and from North Sea islands On 29 June 2011 Commission authorised a plan by the German government to exempt selected groups of passengers to and from certain German islands from a newly-created tax on air transport. Since 1 January 2011 all passengers departing from a German airport are subject to an air transport tax, the amount of which depends on their final destination The exemption is to avoid penalising islanders who already pay more comparatively for air travel. The measure will be limited to residents of the islands. Read more