In a February 20, 2014 decision, the French Competition Authority fined the press group Amaury, the owner of the sports newspaper L’Equipe which has been in a dominant position for many years on the sports press market, for abusively forcing the daily sports newspaper Le 10 Sport out of the market.
In September 2008, the company Le Journal du Sport launched a new concept of a low cost daily sports newspaper: Le 10 Sport, which was positioned as a direct competitor of L’Equipe. Two weeks after the launch meeting of Le 10 Sport, the Amaury group in its turn decided to bring out a new newspaper called Aujourd’hui Sport, the exact replica of Le 10 Sport: same format, same price, same target readers and same launch date.
Le 10 Sport referred the matter to the Competition Authority, which then had a search and seizure carried out in the Amaury group’s premises. The search and seizure revealed that out-and-out war had been declared against the new entrant. The newspaper’s strategy was not particularly sophisticated but very effective. It can be reduced to a single clear objective: to “kill the project” of Le 10 Sport. To do so, various counter-attacks were considered, such as revamping the newspaperL’Equipe or adding a second football insert in tabloid format folded inside L’Equipe. The Amaury group chose to launch a new daily considered to be the most damaging riposte for Le 10 Sport but also representing the biggest financial sacrifice due to the fact “that the new daily would scavenge sales ofL’Equipe”.
In a situation of economic crisis scarcely propitious for the arrival of new players, the launch ofAujourd’hui Sport took away some of the readers of Le 10 Sport and thus reduced its sales and operating income, leading to its announced demise. In addition, it was always obvious that Aujourd’hui Sport’s existence would only be short-lived; it was already supposed to disappear if its competitor stopped being published. As it was, scarcely 3 months after Le 10 Sport was pushed out of the market,Aujourd’hui Sport stopped being published even though it was gaining in popularity.
The Competition Authority recalled that being in a dominant position is not in itself criticisable; however, an undertaking in that situation must be particularly attentive that it does not impede actual competition by its conduct. In this case The owner of the L’Equipe abused his dominant position when it deliberately foreclosed a new entrant from the market: proof can be found in the lack of economic rationality of the strategy used, the simultaneous launch of a similar newspaper and the intended shortness of Aujourd’hui Sport’s existence.
After a procedure lasting more than five years, the Amaury group was fined 3.5 million euros, reduced by 60% because of the group’s financial difficulties. The fine is not huge since the practices occurred over a short period of time, which is actually somewhat paradoxical. Given the importance of the duration coefficient when calculating the fine, the sanction could perhaps have been higher if the eviction strategy had not been so effective so rapidly...