Cartels

ECJ hands down judgments on General Court judgments in the GIS cartel. On 10 April 2014, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on appeals against General Court judgments in actions related to the gas insulated switchgear (GIS) cartel (Case No 38899IP/07/80). In appeals brought by Areva and Alstrom, the ECJ held that the General Court (and European Commission) had erred in attributing joint and several liability in equal measure to successive parent companies; the European Commission (Commission) ought to have fixed the amount of the fine according to the gravity and duration of the infringement of the undertaking individually responsible (Joined Cases C–427/11 and C–253/11 - Areva SA v Commission, and Alstom and others v Commission). In the appeal brought by the Commission, the ECJ found that the General Court had erred in finding that it is for the Commission only to determine the payment responsibilities of different undertakings on whom fines have been jointly and severally imposed; rather, it is for the national courts to determine those shares by applying the national law concerned (Joined Cases C–231/11, C–232/11 and C–233/11 - Commission v Siemens Österreich and Others, Siemens Transmission & Distribution v Commission and Siemens Transmission & Distribution and Nuova Magrini Galileo v Commission, Judgments of 10 April 2014 ECJ Press Release 60/14).

Commission imposes cartel fines on high voltage power cable producers. On 2 April 2014, the Commission imposed fines totalling EUR 301 million on producers of underground and submarine high voltage power cables (IP/14/358). According to the Commission, the participants shared markets and allocated customers between themselves for almost 10 years (Case AT.39610).

Commission imposes cartel fines on steel abrasives producers. On 2 April 2014, the Commission imposed fines totalling EUR 30 million on producers of steel abrasives used for cleaning or enhancing metal surfaces in the steel, automotive, metallurgy, and petrochemical industries (IP/14/359). According to the Commission, the producers participated in a cartel to coordinate prices for steel abrasives in Europe for over six years (Case AT. 39792). The participants received a 10% reduction in fines pursuant to the cartel settlement procedure.

Commission issues SO to Marine Harvest for failure to notify. On 31 March 2014, the Commission announced that it has sent a Statement of Objections (SO) to Marine Harvest ASA having reached the preliminary conclusion that Marine Harvest failed to notify its acquisition of Morpol in breach of the EU Merger Regulation (IP/14/350). In December 2012, Marine Harvest acquired a 48.5% stake in Morpol. The transaction was notified in August 2013 and cleared subject to conditions in September 2013 (M.6580).

Phase I Clearances

  • M.7151 – BNP Paribas / The Royal Bank of Scotland (10.04.2014).
  • M.7153 – BNPP / Laser (10.04.2014).
  • M.7170 – Discovery / Eurosport (simplified procedure).
  • M.7171 – Varo / Bayernoil Package (simplified procedure) (28.03.2014).
  • M.7201 – Carlyle / Industrial Packaging Group (simplified procedure).
  • M.7205 – Extra Israel / Dolphin / IDBD (simplified procedure) (28.03.2014).

UK Reform

Competition and Markets Authority starts work. On 1 April 2014, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) became the UK’s primary competition and consumer agency. The OFT and CC have now been abolished. The CMA brings together the existing competition and certain consumer protection functions of the Office of Fair Trading and the responsibilities of the Competition Commission, as amended by the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 (CMA Press Release). The competition provisions of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 (ERRA) have also entered into force. The following guidance is now available on the CMA website:

UK Antitrust

Supreme Court rules that time limit for bringing damages actions is not extended by appeals by other addressees. On 9 April 2014, the Supreme Court allowed an appeal by Morgan Crucible Company plc (Morgan Crucible) related to damages claims following the 2003 Commission Decision in the carbon and graphite cartel. The Supreme Court has reinstated the May 2011 judgment by the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) dismissing damages claims brought against Morgan Crucible on the ground that they had not been brought within the stipulated time (see Case No 1173/5/7/10 – Deutsche Bahn AG & Others v Morgan Crucible Company PLC & Others). The Supreme Court concluded that the only “relevant decision” establishing an infringement in relation to an addressee who does not appeal is the original Commission decision. The time limit for bringing damages claims is not extended by appeals by other addressees of that same decision (Deutsche Bahn AG and others v Morgan Advanced Materials Plc (formerly Morgan Crucible) [2014] UKSC 24, Judgment of 9 April 2014).

OFT issues Chapter I infringement decision in mobility scooters case. On 27 March 2014, the OFT announced that it has issued a decision finding that manufacturer of mobility scooters, Pride Mobility Products Limited (Pride), and eight of its UK-wide online retailers have infringed the Chapter I prohibition of the Competition Act 1998. The OFT found that the arrangements prevented the online retailers from advertising online prices below Pride’s Recommended Retail Price (RRP) for certain models. The OFT has determined not to impose fines on the basis that the parties’ turnovers fall within the thresholds for immunity from fines for “small agreements” under section 39 of the Competition Act 1998 (OFT Press Release 23/14).

UK Mergers

Competition Commission clears Ericsson / Red Bee Media merger. On 27 March 2014, the Competition Commission (CC) formally cleared the anticipated acquisition by Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson (Ericsson) of Creative Broadcast Services Holdings (2) Limited (Red Bee) (see Ericsson / Red Bee Media inquiry homepage) (CC Press Release).

Competition Commission clears Tradebe / Sita joint venture. On 28 March 2014, the CC formally cleared the completed joint venture between Tradebe Environmental Services Limited and SITA UK Limited (see Tradebe Sita inquiry homepage) (CC Press Release).

CMA publishes final report on completed Breedon Aggregates / Aggregates Industries UK merger. On 9 April 2014, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published its final report on the completed Breedon and Aggregate Industries (see Breedon Aggregates / Aggregates Industries UK merger inquiry). The CMA has concluded that the transaction gives rise to a substantial lessening of competition (SLC) for products in three areas: asphalt in the Aberdeen area; RMX in the Peterhead area; and asphalt in the Inverness area. The CMA therefore requires Breedon to make divestments of an asphalt plant in the Aberdeen area and a RMX plant in the Peterhead area, and to undertake to cap prices in the Inverness area (CC Press Release).

UK Market Investigations

Ofgem proposes a reference to the CMA to investigate the energy market. On 27 March 2014, the OFT, Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (Ofgem), and CMA jointly published a State of the Market Assessment on the energy markets. The Assessment identifies various reasons why competition in the energy supply markets is not working as well as it could. Ofgem is now consulting on its intention to make a market investigation reference to the CMA.

Germany

Germany extradites first executive for cartel offence. In April 2014, Mr. Romano Pisciotti, an Italian national formerly an executive at Parker ITR Srl, was extradited from Germany to the United States to face bid-rigging charges in connection with the sale of marine hoses (DoJ Press Release).

Procedure

Commission introduces new mandatory state aid complaint form. The Commission has introduced a new mandatory state aid complaint form.

Speeches

Speech by the Vice President of the European Commission responsible for Competition Policy, Joaquín Almunia. Fighting against cartels: A priority for the present and for the future, 3 April 2014 (SPEECH/14/281).

Speech by the Vice President of the European Commission responsible for Competition Policy, Joaquín Almunia. Developments in EU competition policy, 10 April 2014 (SPEECH/14/312).

Speech given by CMA Chairman, David Currie. European Consumer Summit, Brussels (1 April 2014).

EU Sanctions

Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 329/2014 amending for the 211th time Council Regulation (EC) No 881/2002 imposing certain specific restrictive measures directed against certain persons and entities associated with the Al-Qaeda network. The Implementing Regulation amends Annex I which lists designated persons and entities.