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Antitrust: restrictive agreements and dominance

Chapter 2, Section 7 of the Competition Act sets out the prohibition against abuse of a dominant position. The provision is modelled on Article 102 TFEU.

i Significant casesAccess to waste collection infrastructure

In February 2018, the SCA imposed an injunction on FTI, a waste management company, ordering it to withdraw a contract termination with its competitor, TMR. FTI allows packaging producers to fulfil their legal obligation by offering a service to collect and recycle packaging waste emanating from their products in exchange for a weight-based fee. FTI's waste collection is primarily based on a nationwide infrastructure of public waste containers. Since 2012, FTI had granted access to this infrastructure to TMR, which offered its services in competition with FTI. In 2016, FTI terminated the access contract with TMR. Having investigated the case, the SCA found that the infrastructure of public waste containers constituted an essential facility and that FTI had abused its dominant position by refusing to deal with TMR. The PMC upheld the injunction on appeal. FTI has appealed the decision, and the case is pending before the PMCA.

Tobacco coolers labelling system

The SCA sued Swedish Match, a major supplier of snus (a moist tobacco product), for abuse of dominance. The SCA claimed that Swedish Match had foreclosed its competitors by implementing a uniform system for shelf labels in snus coolers that it had lent to retail stores. Although Swedish Match permitted sales of other suppliers in those coolers, the SCA argued that the labelling system restricted competitors from marketing their products in terms of price and brand, especially since the marketing of tobacco products in general is subject to significant legal restrictions. Swedish Match, on the other hand, had argued, inter alia, that its intentions were to ensure that the labelling system complied with the strict marketing regulations relating to tobacco products. The PMC found that Swedish Match had abused its dominant position, and imposed fines of 38 million kronor. However, the PMCA reversed and ruled in favour of Swedish Match. In its judgment from June 2018, the PMCA held that the labelling system indeed was capable of foreclosing competitors by way of restricting their marketing possibilities. However, the court further held that such exclusionary behaviour by a dominant undertaking is objectively justified – a concept rarely accepted by the EU courts – when the purpose is to ensure compliance with tobacco marketing regulations.

Stock exchange services – foreclosure of competitor

The SCA sued the operator of the Stockholm stock exchange, Nasdaq, for abuse of dominance and requested fines of 28 million kronor. The case revolved around a data centre provided by Verizon. Nasdaq leased one area in the data centre, and offered its customers, such as high frequency traders, the opportunity to rent space in the same area. The co-location with Nasdaq gave the customers a fast connection to Nasdaq's trading systems. The events were triggered when Burgundy, a Nasdaq competitor, publicly announced that it had entered into a deal with Verizon and intended to move into the same data centre as Nasdaq. In effect, Burgundy would become part of Nasdaq's co-location service without having to set up its own service. Nasdaq responded by putting pressure on Verizon, threatening to move to another data centre if Burgundy was allowed into the centre. The SCA did not argue that access to the data centre was essential. Instead, it relied on the concept of a 'naked restriction', claiming that Nasdaq's reaction to Burgundy's announcement had no other purpose than to restrict competition. The PMC, however, held that this was a normal exercise of contractual rights and competition on the merits. Consequently, the PMC rejected the SCA's claim. The judgment has been appealed and the case is pending before the PMCA.

ii Trends, developments and strategies

The SCA is continuing to investigate markets and sectors at risk of competition concerns. Certain sectors are more closely scrutinised by the SCA due to previous regulations that have created structural imbalances in the market (such as the pharmacies and telecommunications sectors). As abuse of dominance cases are difficult to prove, the SCA has formed a division specialised in such anticompetitive behaviours.

iii Outlook

In Sweden, many sectors have previously been characterised by a monopoly or few companies dominating the market. Many of these markets are now in the process of being, or have recently been, deregulated, which has often resulted in a market with non-existent, or low, competition. Therefore, the SCA has focused its efforts on these markets. Of particular interest is the market for passenger transport – both public transport in the cities and nationwide transportation of passengers.