The EC is actively investigating the financial services sector under EU competition law, and it is likely that more cases will be started. On 12 July 2012, it published for comment amended proposals from Thomson Reuters concerning Reuters Instrument Codes (RICs). The proposals are designed to allay EC concerns that Thomson Reuters may be abusing its dominant position in the market for consolidated real-time datafeeds by prohibiting customers from using RICs for retrieving data from alternative providers and cross-referencing them to alternative codes by other suppliers (so-called “mapping”).
The EC also continues to investigate the behaviour of a number of leading investment banks in the credit default swaps market. However, its top priority case in the sector, and one that it describes as “quite shocking” and “a major competition concern”, relates to LIBOR, EURIBOR and TIBOR rates. The EC is focusing its investigation on suspected cartel arrangements involving financial derivatives related to these rates, including possible collusion over the setting of the rates. Apart from a possible EC fine, the parties involved will be aware that third-party damages claims before national courts in the EU will inevitably follow any EU decision finding an infringement of EU competition law.
The financial crisis has forced a regulatory focus on financial services in the EU, and it is clear that competition law enforcement will continue to be a part of this over the next few years. Companies active in this sector would be well advised to audit their EU activities so as to pre-empt any concerns.