Competition (Finland): Finnish Market Court dismisses Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority's fine proposal concerning power transmission line building cartel

OOn 30 March 2016, the Finnish Market Court ("Market Court") dismissed the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority's ("FCCA") proposal to impose a fine of EUR 35 million on Eltel Networks Oy and Eltel Group Oy (jointly “Eltel”) for participation in an alleged cartel on the market for power transmission line construction. The Market Court found that the limitation period of five years for the FCCA's fine proposal had expired. Under the applicable Act on Competition Law Restrictions (now replaced by the Competition Act), the fine proposal must be submitted within five years of the date on which the violation ended.

The FCCA submitted the fine proposal to the Market Court on 31 October 2014. In its decision, the Market Court found that accordingly, no fine could be imposed on Eltel if it were shown to have ceased any participation in an infringement on or by 31 October 2009. As the Market Court found that there was no evidence to prove that the alleged infringement continued up until 31 October 2009, the Market Court dismissed the FCCA's fine proposal as time barred. Source: Market Court Decision 30/03/2016 (in Finnish)

Competition: Court of Justice of the European Union publishes an order on right to intervene in case regarding rejection of complaint

On 1 March 2016, the Court of Justice of the European Union ("CJEU") dismissed an appeal by Cousins Material House Ltd ("Cousins"), a UK wholesale supplier of branded watch spare parts. Cousins had appealed a General Court ("GC") decision dismissing Cousins application to intervene in a case concerning the refusal by luxury watch manufacturers to supply spare parts to independent retailers.

In 2004, the Confédération européenne des associations d’horlogers-réparateurs ("CEAHR"), lodged a complaint with the Commission alleging the existence of an agreement or a concerted practice between several luxury watch manufacturers, and the abuse of dominance, resulting from their refusal to continue to supply spare parts to independent watch repairers. In July 2014 the Commission announced that it had closed the investigation for the second time, taking into account an earlier GC judgment which had concluded that the Commission had committed manifest errors in its previous investigation. CEAHR lodged an appeal for the second time in 2015, as reported earlier.

Cousins submitted an application to intervene in the same case. However, Cousins application was dismissed by the GC in 2015. Cousins appealed further to the CJEU, which dismissed the appeal in its entirety and held that the GC had not made any error in concluding that the annulment of the Commission's decision would not be capable of altering the legal position of Cousins. The CJEU held that Cousins did not have a direct and existing interest in the result of the case, that there were no errors in the statement of reasons by the GC, and that the mere fact of being a wholesaler on a market and sharing an economic interest with retailers did not place Cousins in the same procedural position as a professional association of retailers. Source: Case C-635/15 P(I) Cousins Material House Ltd v CEAHR and Commission, Court of Justice of the European Union Order of 1 March 2016

Merger control (Sweden): Swedish Competition Authority withdraws summons application after Kronfågel abandons the acquisition of Lagerberg

As previously reported, Kronfågel Holding AB ("Kronfågel"), the largest undertaking on the Swedish chicken market, notified its acquisition of all shares in Lagerberg i Norjeby AB ("Lagerberg"), the third largest undertaking on the same market, to the Swedish Competition Authority ("SCA") in June 2015. The SCA opened an in-depth investigation to assess the potential competition concerns raised by the proposed acquisition. The in-depth investigation was extended three times for the purposes of allowing Kronfågel to consider possible commitments, which could be submitted in order to solve competition concerns identified by the SCA. Nevertheless, the SCA held that the transaction would significantly restrict effective competition and, in January 2016, initiated proceedings before the Stockholm District Court ("SDC") to prohibit the acquisition.

The parties have now withdrawn the notification to the SCA and abandoned the acquisition. Therefore, the SCA has decided to withdraw its summons application and the SDC has closed the case.

Source: Swedish Competition Authority Press Release 23/03/2016 (in Swedish)