CARTELS

European Court of Justice dismisses European Commission appeal in copper fittings cartel. On 4 July 2013, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) dismissed an appeal by the European Commission (Commission) against the annulment by the General Court of the 2006 Commission Decision in the copper fittings cartel (COMP/38.121) against Aalberts Industries NV (Aalberts) (see T-385/06 - Aalberts Industries and Others v Commission, Judgment of 24 March 2011). The Commission had imposed a €100.8 million fine on Aalberts for participation in the cartel through its subsidiaries, Aquatis France SAS (subsequently Comap) and Simplex Armaturen + Fittings GmbH. In the judgment, the ECJ upheld the General Court’s conclusion that the Commission had failed to establish participation in a single, complex and continuous infringement, and, accordingly, the General Court’s annulment of the fines stand (Case C–287/11 - European Commission v Aalberts Industries NV, Comap SA, formerly Aquatis France SAS, Simplex Armaturen + Fittings GmbH & Co. KG, Judgment of 4 July 2013) (Press Release 83/13).

European Court of Justice dismisses appeals in International Removal Services cartel. On 11 July 2013, the ECJ dismissed appeals by certain addresses of the 2008 Commission Decision in the international removal services cartel (COMP/38543) (Judgments in Cases C-429/11 P - Gosselin Group v Commission, C-439/11 P - Ziegler v Commission, C-440/11 P - Commission v Stichting Administratiekantoor Portielje, C-444/11 P - Team Relocations and Others v Commission, Judgments of 11 July 2013) (see Volume 1, Edition 8).

General Court dismisses appeals related to De Beers “Supplier of Choice” arrangements. On 11 July 2013, the General Court dismissed appeals by BVGD and Spira against decisions by the European Commission to reject complaints related to aspects of De Beers’ “Supplier of Choice” arrangements for the supply of diamonds (Cases T-108/07 and T-354/08 - Diamanthandel A. Spira BVBA v European Commission and Cases T-104/07 and T-339/08 - BVGD v Commission, Judgments of 11 July).

European Commission imposes fines of €141 million on wire harnesses producers following cartel settlement. On 10 July 2013, the Commission announced that it has imposed fines totalling €141 million on four producers related to five separate infringements in relation to the supply of wire harnesses to car manufacturers. A fifth company benefited from immunity under the Commission’s 2006 Leniency Notice. This is the seventh settlement decision since the introduction of the Commission’s 2008 Settlement Notice, and it ensured that the producers obtained an additional 10% discount (IP/13/673).

European Commission issues statement of objections in CDS information market investigation. On 1 July 2013, the Commission announced that it has issued a statement of objections (SO) to thirteen investment banks, as well as to the International Swaps and Derivatives Association (ISDA), a professional organization of financial institutions involved in the over-the-counter (OTC) trading of derivatives, and data service provider Markit (COMP/39745). According to the Press Release, the Commission considers that the recipients colluded to prevent exchanges from entering the credit derivatives business between 2006 and 2009 contrary to Article 101 of the TFEU (IP/13/360, (MEMO/13/632 and SPEECH/13/593) (see Volume 1, Edition 21).

European Commission confirms dawn raids in internet connectivity services sector. On 10 July 2013, the Commission confirmed that unannounced inspections were conducted at the premises of a number of telecommunications companies active in the provision of Internet connectivity in several Member States on 9 July 2013 (MEMO/13/681).

DOMINANCE

Commission initiates formal proceedings against Bulgarian Energy Holding. On 5 July 2012, the Commission has announced that it has opened formal proceedings to investigate whether Bulgarian Energy Holding, together with its gas supply subsidiary Bulgargaz and gas infrastructure subsidiary Bulgartransgaz, might be hindering competitors from accessing key gas infrastructures in Bulgaria contrary to Article 102 TFEU (39849 - BEH gas). In particular, the Commission has concerns that these companies may be explicitly or tacitly refusing or delaying access to third parties reserving capacity that is consistently not used (IP/13/656).

EU MERGERS

Phase I Clearance

  • M.6948Telenor / Globul / Germanos (03.07.2013).
  • M.6906KKR / Gardner Denver, Inc. (05.07.2013) (simplified review).
  • M.6951Bain Capital / FTE (07.2013) (09.07.2013) (simplified review).
  • M.6955KKR / South Staffordshire Plc (10.07.2013) (simplified review).
  • M.6946BayWa / Bohnhorst Agrarhandel (simplified review).
  • M.6933Vitol / Philips 66 Power Operations (simplified review).

UK ANTITRUST

Competition Appeal Tribunal consents to the withdrawal of Siemens and Capital Meters damages actions against National Grid. The Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) has published two orders allowing the withdrawal of damages action, brought under section 47A of the Competition Act 1998, against National Grid by Siemens plc (Case No. 1198/5/7/12) and Capital Meters Limited (Case No. 1199/5/7/12), respectively. Both orders state that the parties have agreed upon a settlement, the terms of which are confidential. Capital Meter’s action is currently stayed until 5 July 2013.

OFT sends statement of objections to access control and alarm systems companies. On 5 July 2013, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) announced that it has issued a statement of objections to four suppliers of access control and alarm systems to retirement properties alleging that they have breached the Chapter I Prohibition of the Competition Act 1998 (Press Release 50/13).

OFT issues new leniency guidance. On 8 July 2013, the OFT published revised guidance on applications for leniency and no-action in cartel cases (Press Release 51/13) (OFT1495).

UK MERGERS

SCOP appeals Competition Commission decision on Eurotunnel/ SeaFrance merger. On 4 July 2013, the CAT published a summary of an appeal brought by Société Coopérative de Production SeaFrance SA (the SCOP) against the CC decision on the Eurotunnel / SeaFrance merger. According to the SCOP, inter alia, the CC did not have jurisdiction to consider the merger (Case No 1217/4/8/13).

Competition Commission approves AG BARR / Britvic merger. On 9 July 2013, the CC published its final report on the anticipated acquisition by AG BARR plc of Britivic plc. The Competition Commission has confirmed its provisional findings that the merger would not be likely to give rise to a substantial lessening of competition in any market in the UK (see AG Barr / Britvic merger inquiry) (see Volume 1, Issue 32).

Competition Commission publishes provisional adverse findings report in NHS hospital merger. On 3 June 2013, the CC published its provisional findings in the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust / Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust merger inquiry. The CC has concluded that the anticipated transaction may significantly affect competition in numerous ‘elective’ and ‘outpatient’ services, leading to a lower standard of service (CC Press Release).

AUTORITÉ DE LA CONCURRENCE

Autorité de la Concurrence publishes preliminary findings in pharmaceutical sector inquiry for public consultation. On 10 July 2013, the Autorité de la Concurrence published its initial assessment of pharmaceutical distribution practices following the sector inquiry launched in February 2013 (Press Release). In particular, the Autorité has identified certain barriers to the development of generic medicinal products, including “denigration” (as seen in the recent Plavix decision by the Autorité, see Volume 1, Edition 28), the withdrawal of marketing authorisations (as per Astra Zeneca) and pay-for-delay practices (as seen in the recent Lundbeck Commission Decision, see Volume 1, Edition 33). The deadline for comments is 16 September 2013.

Autorité de la Concurrence publishes new merger control guidelines. On 10 July 2013, the Autorité de la Concurrence published revised merger control guidelines aimed at simplifying the notification procedure (Lignes directrices de l’Autorité de la concurrence relatives au contrôle des concentrations).

CONSULTATIONS / PUBLICATIONS

Commission consults on “de minimis” safe harbour. On 11 July 2013, the Commission invited comments on a proposal to revise its guidance notice for assessing when minor agreements between companies are not caught by Article 101 TFEU (the “de minimis” notice) (Consultation). The Commission intends to adopt a new notice in 2014 (IP/13/685).

European Competition Network – July 2013 Report (ECN Brief 03/2013).

EU SANCTIONS

Al-Qaida

Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 652/2013 (OJ L 189/4, 10.07.2013) amending Annex I to Council Regulation (EC) No 881/2002 imposing certain specific restrictive measures directed against certain persons and entities associated with the Al-Qaida network. The Implementing removes one designated person from Annex I.