EUROPEAN UNION

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

NETHERLANDS

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

NORWAY 

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