Inspections carried out by the European Commission. Following unannounced inspections in July 2014 at the premises of a number of telecommunications companies across the EU active in the provision of Internet connectivity, the Commission has now closed its investigation, but will continue to monitor the sector. Furthermore, the Commission has carried out unannounced inspections in the biofuel sector in two member states, following similar inspections by the EFTA Surveillance Authority in May 2013. Find out more.
European Commission wants to make enforcement of competition rules more effective throughout the EU. This summer, the Commission has adopted a communication on “Ten years of Antitrust Enforcement – achievements and future perspectives”, accompanied by two staff working documents. The Commission reviews past enforcement by itself and the national competition authorities (NCAs) and lists areas in which it wishes that further progress was made, most notably the strengthening of the NCA’s position within the respective national institutional landscape, a further convergence of procedures and inspection powers and the power for each NCA to provide for effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions. The relevant documents can be downloaded here.
European Commission adopted a revised De Minimis Notice. As underlined by the Commission, the main change is that restrictions by object (having an anti-competitive object) cannot benefit from the safe harbour for minor agreements, which already existed in the previous version of the De Minimis Notice for companies whose market shares do not exceed 10 percent (15 percent for agreements between non-competitors). The Notice and the accompanying staff working document can be downloaded here.
Extension of the maritime consortia block exemption regulation regime until April 2020. The European Commission has again extended the existing legal framework that conditionally exempts liner shipping consortia from EU antitrust rules, after a market investigation in 2013 and a public consultation early 2014 confirmed that the basis of the Commission’s approach is still valid. Find out more.
State aid: Commission publishes overview of decisions and investigations related to the temporary state aid framework adopted in the context of the financial crisis. The overview includes relevant Commission communications and decisions adopted by the Commission during the period 2008 to 2014. Find out more.
State aid: revised guidelines for supporting non-financial firms in difficulty. The new guidelines replace those adopted in 2004 and entered into force in August. New features include the possibility of a simplified restructuring plan and certain forms of state support to be granted to SME’s for up to 18 months. The European Commission also stressed the definition of better filters to avoid state aid where it is not needed, and new rules for investors to share the financial burden of the firm’s restructuring. Find out more.
The powers of the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets have been harmonized. The Streamlining Act (Stroomlijningswet) is now in force. This Act harmonizes the different powers, enforcement tools and procedures of the three predecessors of the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM): the Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa), the Netherlands Independent Post and Telecommunication Authority (OPTA) and the Netherlands Consumer Authority. The Streamlining Act also introduced new merger thresholds. A merger should be notified in the Netherlands if the combined worldwide turnover exceeds €150 million (formerly the cutoff was €113.45 million) and at least two parties have a Dutch turnover of more than €30 million. Link here
The ACM has published new fining policy rules and a more attractive leniency policy. The ACM’s new fining policy and a new leniency policy are in force. The rules were recently changed with the purpose of making it easier and more attractive for businesses and individuals to confess their involvement in a cartel. Immunity will be granted to the first applicant that reports a cartel; it will also be granted in the event that ACM has already launched an investigation into that cartel. Until recently, such situations warranted a reduction of the fine between 60 and 100 percent. Further, under the new policies, the second leniency applicant may receive a higher reduction than before. Link here
Dawn-raid in the aviation sector. In June 2014, the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA), assisted by the NCA, carried out unannounced inspections at the premises of airline company Widerøe’s Flyveselskap AS. ESA has not provided further information about the duration of its inquiries or the specific case, but there has been turmoil in relation to Widerøe’s operations on domestic routes in Norway, with allegation of exclusionary conduct being made by regional politicians. Link here
Appointed expert committee launches public consultation in the establishing of a competition complaint tribunal. The expert committee appointed in May 2014 with a mandate to make recommendations in establishing a competition complaints board is currently undertaking a public consultation on the organization, composition, form of procedure and other aspects in relation to establishing such a tribunal. Currently, the Ministry handles complaints on the NCA’s intervention decisions in merger cases, which has given rise to concerns that the decisions may be affected by political motivations.
NOK 25 million fine accepted by Norgesgruppen. Following a public dispute between NCA and the largest grocery retail chain in Norway, Norgesgruppen, whether certain lease premises agreements amounted to a concentration, the latter has decided to accept a fine of NOK 25 million for gun jumping. Link here