EU Competition

EU – Phase I merger notifications published in the Official Journal

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Commission clears Microsoft’s proposed acquisition of the Yahoo search business The European Commission (“Commission”) has approved the proposed acquisition of the internet search and search advertising businesses of Yahoo! by Microsoft. The Commission concluded that the concentration would not significantly impede effective competition in the EU. The transaction has also been cleared without commitments by the US Department of Justice. Click here for more information.

Otto/Primondo Assets: merger clearance with commitments The Commission has cleared the proposed acquisition of certain assets of the insolvent Primondo by Otto, both Germany-based home-shopping companies. Otto acquired trademarks, including the Quelle brand, trademark applications, internet domains and the right to use the Quelle customer data base for Germany. The Commission decision is conditional upon the divestiture of certain trademarks and the granting of the right to use the Quelle customer data base under the same conditions as Otto and in compliance with data protection rules. Otto offered these commitments to remedy competition concerns identified by the Commission in several parts of the German home shopping market. Click here for more information

UK Competition

OFT market study: innovation needed in home buying and selling market The OFT has published a market study report into home buying and selling in the UK where it has found that the housing market remains dominated by traditional estate agents with weak competition between them on price. The OFT is of the view that current legislation may be hindering the development of new business models and needs reform so that new entrants are not burdened with inappropriate regulation. The OFT is also recommending that the Government consider introducing additional rules on fees received by estate agents for referring buyers to providers of ancillary services such as mortgage advice, surveys, and conveyancing. The OFT believes that currently these arrangements could cause an estate agent to favour one buyer over another, to the seller’s disadvantage. Click here for more information.

Competition EU Member States

France: NavX files complaint against Google NavX, a content provider for mapping services, has filed a complaint with the French competition authority alleging that Google is abusing its dominant position, as well as Navx’s state of economic dependence, by terminating its Adwords contract and refusing to display Navx’s advertisements. Google is said to have decided to refuse NavX’s adverts, which give details over GPS devices on the location of speed cameras, due to the current uncertainly about the legality of radar detectors and their information services. Other complaints are currently pending against Google in Germany, where publishers are accusing Google of giving preference to its own content or that of partner companies in search results and want Google to pay for using article snippets in its Web news service, as well as in Italy, where newspaper publishers have brought a complaint contending that Google is abusing its dominant position because they cannot opt out of Google News and still maintain their place in Google search results. Click here for more information.

Poland: competition authority fines electricity distributor The Polish competition authority has fined Enion €1.83 million for abusing its dominant position on the electricity distribution market in the Malopolska Region. Enion is the country’s largest electricity distributor and owns the largest electricity network. The investigation followed a complaint by Electrabel over a margin squeeze and unfavourable contract terms. Click here for more information.

State Aid

Alcoa expected to appeal Commission decision Aluminium producer Alcoa is expected to challenge a Commission decision ordering Italy to recover state aid granted to the company in the form of special electricity tariffs. In a recent SEC filing Alcoa revealed that it is preparing to appeal this decision to the General Court of the EU. The recovery order was issued by the Commission in November 2009 following a decision that aid granted since 2006 by Italy was incompatible with state aid rules. Click here for more information