Article 101 TFEU

General Court large ly confirms the lawfulness of requests for information sent by the Commission to cement manufacturers. On 14 March 2014, the General Court handed down judgments related to appeals brought by a number of cement manufacturers in the context of antitrust proceedings initiated by the European Commission (Commission) in December 2010 (IP/10/1696). In the context of those proceedings, the Commission adopted several decisions requiring the parties to respond to a questionnaire. The appellants alleged, among other things, that the Commission had failed to provide an adequate explanation of the presumed infringements referred to in the decisions and that the decisions imposed a disproportionate workload in relation to the volume of information requested. The General Court rejected all actions but for that brought by Schwenk Zement, in which the General Court accepted that a deadline of two weeks was insufficient. According to the General Court, the presumed infringements, although set out in very general terms which might well have been made more precise, had the minimum degree of clarity required. In addition, the workload itself could not be considered disproportionate in the light of the necessities of the enquiry and the extent of the presumed infringements  (Cases T-292/11 – Cemex and Others, T-293/11 – Holcim (Deutschland) and Holcim, T-296/11 – Cementos Portland Valderrivas, T-297/11 – Buzzi Unicem, T-302/11 – HeidelbergCement, T-305/11 – Italmobiliare and T-306/11 – Schwenk Zement v Commission, Judgments of (General Court Press Release No 35/14).

European Commission imposes fines on spot power exchanges in cartel settlement. On 5 March 2014, the Commission imposed fines totalling EUR 5.9 million on two European spot power exchanges, EPEX Spot (EPEX) and Nord Pool Spot (NPS). The Commission found that, in the context of discussions to establish the Internal Energy Market (IEM), EPEX and NPS agreed not to compete with each other and to allocate European territories contrary to Article 101 TFEU. NPS and EPEX each received a fine reduction of 10% under the Commission Settlement Notice (IP/14/215).

Article 102 TFEU

Commission impose s fine on Romanian Power Exchange OPCOM for discriminating against EU electricity traders. On 5 March 2014, the Commission imposed a fine of just over EUR 1 million on the Romanian Power Exchange, OPCOM S.A., for conduct contrary to Article 102 TFEU. OPCOM operates the only power exchange in Romania. Between 2008 and 2013, OPCOM required members of the spot electricity markets to hold a Romanian VAT registration, and refused to accept traders that were already registered for VAT in other EU Member States. As a result, EU traders could only enter the Romanian wholesale electricity market by setting up a fixed establishment in Romania, which entailed additional costs and organisational disadvantages for EU traders compared to Romanian traders (see Case No. 39984 and IP/14/214) (see Volume 1, Edition 30).

EU Mergers

Phase I Clearances

  • M.7104 – Crown Holdings / Mivisa (IP/14/270).
  • M.7154 – World Fuel Services Corporation / Watson Petroleum Limited (28.02.2014).
  • M.7156 – WEX / Radius / Esso’s European Fuel Card Business (05.03.2014).
  • M.7158 – Glencore / Sumitomo / Clermont JV (simplified procedure) (11.03.2014).
  • M.7160 – Predica / AVIVA France / Ensemble immobilier Saint-Denis (04.03.2014).
  • M.7166 – LBEIP / Sacyr Concesiones / Hospitales Concesionados (05.03.2014)
  • M.7176 – CFAO / Carrefour / JV (28.02.2014).
  • M.7183 – Kendrick Investments / Topaz Energy / Resource Property (simplified procedure) (11.03.2014).
  • M.7192 – Brookfield / MOL / ITI (05.03.2014).

Phase II

Commission opens in-depth investigation into acquisition by Huntsman of titanium dioxide assets of Rockwood (M.7061). The Commission has initiated a Phase II investigation to assess the proposed acquisition by Huntsman of equity interests held by Rockwood under the EU Merger Regulation. The Commission has concerns that the transaction may reduce competition in the market for sulphate-based titanium dioxide in the European Economic Area (EEA) (IP/14/220).

Publications

Speeches by the Vice President of the European Commission responsible for Competition Policy, Joaquín Almunia.

  • Competition Policy enforcement as a driver for growth” (SPEECH 14/178); and
  • "Competition policy and the global economy” (SPEECH 14/192).

Speech by the Director-General for Competition, European Commission, Alexander Italianer. Competition Policy in the Digital Age (7 March 2014).

Speech by Chief Executive of the Competition and Markets Authority, Ale x Chisholm. The new UK competition authority within a changing European context (7 March 2014).