EU Competition

Request from Austrian court for ruling on application of Brussels Regulation to claim for recovery of interest on competition fine. On 26 May 2015, details were published in the Official Journal of a request for a preliminary ruling from an Austrian court on the interpretation of Article 5(3) of Council Regulation 44/2001 on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters (Brussels I Regulation). Under Article 5(3) a person domiciled in a member state may, in another member state, be sued in matters relating to, inter alia, quasi­delict, in the courts for the place where the harmful event occurred or may occur. The Austrian court asks whether the concept of a claim relating to quasi­delict in Article 5(3) covers a claim made by a competition authority against a third party (domiciled in another member state) that paid a fine imposed in competition proceedings.

EU Cartels

European Commission (Commission) sends statement of objections alleging participation in a cartel in the canned mushrooms sector. On 28 May 2015, the Commission announced that it has sent a statement of objections to Grupo Riberebro Integral S.L. and its subsidiary Riberebro Integral S.A.U. alleging that they have breached Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union by participation in a cartel in the canned mushrooms sector. The statement of objections alleges that the companies may have colluded with other market participants within the European Economic Area to allocate customers and co­ ordinate prices of “private label” canned mushrooms (those manufactured by one company to be sold under another company’s brand name).

EU Mergers

Phase I Clearance

  • M.7194 ­ LIBERTY GLOBAL / CORELIO / W&W / DE VIJVER MEDIA (28 May 2015)
  • M.7420 ­ ZF / TRW (27 May 2015)
  • M.7615 ­ DEPREZ HOLDING / GREENYARD FOODS (27 May 2015)

EU State Aid

Commission approves amendments to German renewable energy law. On 27 May 2015, the Commission announced that amendments to the German Renewable Act (EEG 2014) are in line with the EU state aid rules. The Commission granted state aid approval to the EEG 2014 in July 2014. The EEG 2014 provides support for electricity production from renewable energy sources and gas. It also reduces the financial burden on certain energy­intensive users by lowering the level of the EEG­surcharge, a levy financing the renewable energy support, that they must pay. The amendments will allow individual companies active in two sectors (the  forging and treatment of metals) to benefit from reduced EEG­surcharge levels if they can demonstrate that their electricity costs are at least 20% of their gross value added.

UK Competition

Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) gains new power to make written recommendations on proposals for legislation. On 26 May 2015, section 37 of the Small Business, Enterprise and Employment Act 2015 came into force. Section 37 amends section 7 of the Enterprise Act 2002 to give the CMA the power to make written recommendations to  ministers about the potential effect of a proposal for Westminster legislation (primary or secondary) on competition within any market(s) in the UK.

Speeches & Publications

European Ombudsman speech on emerging role in competition cases. On 26 May 2015, the European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, gave a speech on the emerging role of the European Ombudsman in competition cases. She reviewed the main cases in which the European Ombudsman has examined complaints about alleged procedural defects by the Commission in competition cases. In recent years the European Ombudsman has become a new actor in such cases and another forum for those wishing to challenge the way in which the Commission has conducted competition investigations.

CMA publishes research into businesses’ understanding of competition law. On 27 May 2015, the CMA published the findings of quantitative research conducted to examine what UK businesses know about competition law in order to help the CMA to target its compliance  strategy and activities. The research shows that there is a significant “compliance gap” as 85%  of businesses think that they should comply with competition law because it is the right thing to do ethically, but there is low understanding around specific anti­competitive behaviours. There is also poor knowledge of the penalties for breaking the law and how to report anti­competitive activity.

CMA consults on updating guidance on “sunset clauses” in market investigation remedies. On 27 May 2015, the CMA issued a consultation on updating its guidance on the use of “sunset clauses” in market investigation remedies. The CMA is proposing to update its market investigations guidance to make it clear that, in designing new remedies, it will always consider whether to specify a finite duration for remedies, for example through the use of a long­stop date in a sunset clause. In addition, the CMA intends to clarify its objective of not retaining in force remedies that are no longer needed. It would, therefore, normally expect to assess whether a remedy remains appropriate within no more than 10 years of it coming into force.