It is a basic principle of EU competition law that companies should not agree to restrict cross-border EU trade or (if in a dominant position) do this unilaterally. Even the most powerful companies have fallen foul of this rule, as demonstrated by the European Commission’s long-running investigation into Gazprom.

Gazprom is the dominant gas supplier in a number of Central and Eastern European countries. The European Commission (EC) alleged in 2015 that Gazprom had been breaking EU competition rules by pursuing an overall strategy to partition Central and Eastern European gas markets. On 13 March 2017, an important development occurred in this case when the EC announced that Gazprom had agreed to changes in its behaviour.

Gazprom has agreed to remove restrictions on the reselling of natural gas cross-border, so facilitating such cross-border flow of gas in Central and Eastern European gas markets. In addition, natural gas prices in Central and Eastern Europe will now reflect competitive price benchmarks and Gazprom cannot act on any advantages concerning gas infrastructure, which it obtained from customers by having leveraged its market position in gas supply.

It is relatively unusual to hold a dominant position, so that unilateral behaviour can be impacted by competition law, but companies which are customers or competitors of dominant companies should be aware of the possibility to use competition law to protect their own positions.