EU Mergers

Phase I Clearance

  • M.7552 MITSUI CHEMICALS / SK HOLDINGS / JV (5 May 2015)
  • M.7570 CAIXABANK / BPI (8 May 2015)

State Aid

The European Court of Justice (the ECJ) finds that Germany failed to recover state aid from Deutsche Post. On 6 May 2015, the ECJ handed down its judgment finding that Germany had failed to comply with a European Commission (Commission) decision requiring it to recover illegal state aid from Deutsche Post. The Commission ordered Germany to recover state aid granted since 2003 to Deutsche Post by way of subsidies to pension costs arising for civil servants in non­price regulated postal services. Germany considered that business­to­business parcel services were non­regulated and refused to recover aid relating to these services. The Commission disagreed. The ECJ concluded that, in implementing the Commission’s decision, Germany was obliged to assess whether or not business­to­business parcel services were a separate market from business­to­consumer parcel services and if so, whether or not Deutsche Post held a dominant position on this market during the relevant period (in order to determine whether business­to­business parcel services were a regulated activity). The ECJ concluded that failure to carry out this assessment meant that Germany was in breach of its obligations under Article 108(2) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and Article 14(3) of Regulation 659/1999.

Commission approves amendments to Romanian green certificate support system for renewables. On 4 May 2015, the Commission announced that it has decided to approve amendments to a Romanian green certificate support system for renewables (MEX/15/4911). The Commission first approved the scheme in July 2011. It clarified that the support granted in the form of tradable “green certificates” involves state aid. The Commission has now concluded that modifications to the system, which tighten the criteria as compared to the 2011 scheme, are in line with the Commission’s 2014 guidelines on state aid for environmental protection and energy.

Commission approves extension of SFIL/CAFFIL activities to financing of export credit loans. On 5 May 2015, the Commission announced that it has decided, under the state aid  rules, to approve an extension of the scope of the activities of the French development bank SFIL/CAFFIL to cover financing of export credit loans. The Commission concluded that this does not involve additional state aid and does not affect the approval of state aid previously granted to SFIL/CAFFIL. It found that there is a market failure in relation to these services and that this will be addressed by SFIL/CAFFIL without unduly distorting competition in the single market.

EU Trade

EU to appeal annulment of tariffs on Sri Lankan and Indonesian bikes. On 7 May 2015, EU trade ministers agreed to lodge an appeal at the Court of Justice to challenge a General Court decision to end pricing duties on bicycles from Sri Lanka’s Coty Cycler Industries and Indonesia’s Chin Haur. In March, the General Court had annulled tariffs linked to unfair pricing on imports from the two companies in Sri Lanka and Indonesia, on the basis that the Commission was wrong to assume that they were part of an effort to dodge duties imposed on China.

UK Competition

The Competition and Markets Authority (the CMA) closes MasterCard and Visa interchange fee investigations. On 6 May 2015, the CMA announced that it has decided to close its investigations into MasterCard and Visa’s multilateral interchange fee arrangements for consumer credit and debit card payments, on the grounds of administrative priorities. The CMA has reached this decision due to the adoption, on 20 April 2015, by the Council of the European Union of the interchange fees Regulation. The Regulation will enter into force 20 days after its publication in the Official Journal, and six months later will cap MasterCard and Visa’s fees.

Speeches & Publications

CMA decides to continue Competition Act investigation into conduct in the healthcare sector. On 30 April 2015, the CMA announced on its website that the decision has been taken to continue with its investigation into a suspected breach of competition law in the healthcare sector.

Commission opens e­commerce sector inquiry. On 6 May 2015, the European Commission announced that it has, under Article 17 of Regulation 1/2003, launched a sector inquiry into the e­commerce sector. The e­commerce sector inquiry will gather information on private (particularly contractual) barriers to trade across national borders set up by companies supplying goods and services online, and assess them in the light of EU antitrust rules. It will focus on those goods and services in which e­commerce is most widespread, such as electronics, clothing and shoes, as well as digital content, and will cover all EU member states.

Speech by Margrethe Vestager on work of European competition authorities. On 7 May 2015, the Commission published a speech by Margrethe Vestager, Competition Commissioner, at the European Competition Day in Riga, Latvia. The Commissioner discussed the close co­ operation between European competition authorities, emphasising the need for all authorities to be truly independent, well­funded and effective.