EU Competition

ECJ preliminary ruling on whether number of people affected impacts the application of Article 101. On 16 July 2015, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) handed down its ruling on a preliminary reference from a Romanian court on whether the number of people potentially affected by an anti­competitive agreement has an impact on whether the agreement infringes Article 101 of the TFEU. The ECJ has concluded that Article 101(1) of the TFEU must be interpreted as meaning that agreements to share clients, such as those concluded between the private pensions funds in the main proceedings, constitute agreements with an anti­competitive object. The number of clients affected by such an agreement is irrelevant when assessing the restriction of competition within the internal market for the purpose of Article 101 of the TFEU.

Advocate General’s Opinion on whether online booking system by travel agents is a concerted practice. On 16 July 2015, Advocate General Szpunar Opined on a reference from a Lithuanian court on whether the imposition of a restriction on granting discounts through a travel agents’ common online booking system constituted a concerted practice for the purposes of Article 101 of the TFEU. The Advocate General considered that the concept of a concerted practice covers the situation where several travel agencies use such a booking system and the system administrator posts a notice informing its users that, following the proposals and wishes of the travel agencies concerned, the discounts applicable to clients will be restricted to a uniform maximum rate and this is followed by technical restriction on the choice of discount rates available to the users of the system.

EU Mergers

Phase I Mergers

  • M.7659 GROUPE IN VIVO / GROUPE SCAEL / JV (20 July 2015)
  • M.7682 GOLDMAN SACHS / ALTOR / HAMLET (21 July 2015)
  • M.7692 FERRERO / THORNTONS (22 July 2015)
  • M.7698 MANPOWERGROUP / 7S GROUP (22 July 2015)

State Aid

ECJ rules that a national rule prohibiting sale to the highest bidder in public tenders is not state aid. On 16 July 2015, the ECJ handed down its ruling on a preliminary reference from the German Federal Supreme Court. The ECJ ruled that Article 107(1) of the TFEU means that national legislation does not constitute state aid where such legislation prohibits a state agency, for the purposes of safeguarding the interests of agricultural holdings, from selling agricultural land to the highest bidder in a procurement of agriculture if the local authority considers that highest bid is grossly disproportionate to the value of the land.

Commission approves state aid for gas pipelines in Poland. On 17 July 2015, the Commission announced that it has decided to approve Polish plans to grant state aid to nine gas pipeline projects. The Commission found that the projects will increase gas interconnection capacity between Poland and neighbouring countries, by eliminating bottlenecks and by reinforcing the existing Polish gas transmission network. Therefore, the nine projects further objectives of common interest. The Commission concluded that the public funding of these projects is in line with the 2014 Guidelines on state aid for environmental protection and energy.

Commission approves liquidation aid for Banca Romagna Cooperativa. On 18 July 2015, the Commission announced that it has decided, under the state aid rules, to approve liquidation aid granted by Italy in favour of Banca Romagna Cooperativa. This small Italian co­operative bank was put into liquidation on 17 July 2015. Its assets and liabilities have been transferred to Banca Sviluppo. The Commission has concluded that state support measures, provided via the Italian mandatory deposit guarantee scheme, are compatible with the terms of the 2013 Banking Communication, on state aid to banks during the financial crisis.


ECJ holds that EU was right to refuse to treat Armenia as a market economy when probing dumped aluminium­foil imports. The ECJ set aside the General Court’s ruling which had annulled Council Regulation (EC) No 925/2009 imposing a definitive anti­dumping duty and collecting definitively the provisional duty imposed on imports of certain aluminium foil originating in Armenia, Brazil and the People’s Republic of China. The ECJ then referred the four other  pleas in the case that it did not adjudicate on back to the General Court.

UK Competition

CMA continues civil investigation into suspected cartel in supply of galvanised steel tanks for water storage. On 17 July 2015, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) updated its administrative timetable in relation to its ongoing investigation under the Competition Act 1998 into suspected cartel conduct in respect of the supply in the UK of galvanised steel tanks for water storage. The CMA was conducting a parallel criminal investigation under the Enterprise Act 2002. However, this has been concluded, subject to the sentencing of one individual who pleaded guilty to the criminal cartel offence.