UK: Focus Antitrust - Competition Weekly Email Alert - 7 December 2011

Last Updated: 16 December 2011
Article by Paul Stone

In the News

The OFT has published a new guide on the application of the Competition Act 1998 to public bodies, intended to provide a high level outline of the circumstances in which their activities will be considered economic activities subject to the UK and EU competition law. Click here.

Whilst the OFT has closed its investigation under the Competition Act 1998 into arrangements between e-book publishers and retailers, click here, the European Commission has opened formal proceedings to investigate whether arrangements for the sale of e-books infringe Article 101 TFEU, click here.

EU

Articles 101 and 102

  • The General Court has delivered its judgment on the appeal by companies in the Quinn Group against the European Commission's decision in the acrylic glass cartel. The General Court held that the Commission had erred in finding that Quinn participated in a continuous infringement, and that as such the fine must be reduced to reflect this error. Click here.
  • The General Court has published orders by which it has decided that there is no longer any need to adjudicate on appeals brought by Elementis and BASF, following the European Commission's decision to repeal the heat stabilisers cartel decision in so far as it relates to those companies. Click here and here.
  • Details of an appeal by companies in the Kone group against the General Court's judgment on their appeal against the European Commission's decision on the lifts and escalators cartel have been published. Kone claims that the General Court erred in its assessment of the Commission's application of the 2002 Leniency Notice. Click here.
  • Details have been published of an appeal by Telekomunikacja Polska SA against the European Commission's decision to fine it €127.5 million for abusing its dominant position on Polish broadband markets, contrary to Article 102 TFEU. Click here.
  • The European Commission has begun its review of the operation of the technology transfer block exemption and the Guidelines on the application of Article 101 TFEU to technology transfer agreements. Click here.
  • The European Commission has published a summary of its decision to fine 17 bathroom equipment manufacturers a total of €662 million for engaging in a pricefixing cartel, contrary to Article 101 TFEU. Click here.
  • An official summary of the European Commission's decision to fine 17 producers of pre-stressing steel a total of €518.5 million for participation in a long-running pricefixing and market-sharing cartel, in breach of Article 101 TFEU has been published in the Official Journal. Click here.
  • Details of an appeal lodged by Deutsche Bahn to seek the annulment of a Commission Decision ordering inspections of Deutsche Bahn and its subsidiaries (due to suspicions of a breach of Article 102 TFEU) have been published. Deutsche Bahn claims that the inspection decision was unlawful as it breached its rights of defence, the right to inviolability of premises, the right to an effective legal remedy and the principle of proportionality. Click here.

Mergers – cleared

Public Procurement

  • The financial thresholds for the application of the EU public procurement directives have been adjusted by Commission Regulation 1251/2001. The new thresholds will apply from 1 January 2012. Click here.

State Aid

  • The General Court has dismissed an appeal by Sniace SA against the European Commission's decision which found that Sniace had received unlawful state aid. Click here.

Speeches

  • Joaquin Almunia: "Unleashing Europe's potential for growth: the role of competition policy", click here.
  • Neelie Kroes: "Incentives to invest in the future: creating an open, competitive telecoms market", click here.

UK

CAT

  • The CAT has delivered its ruling on applications by Crest Nicholson plc and ISG Pearce Limited requesting that the OFT pay the costs of their appeals against the OFT's construction cover pricing decision. The CAT applied the principle that the successful party should recover its costs from the OFT and awarded Crest Nicholson its costs application in full. However, the CAT reduced the costs awarded to ISG Pearce to Ł30,000 on the basis that the amount of costs sought by ISG Pearce was disproportionate as regards the extent of its success in the appeal and the nature of the issues raised. Click here.
  • The CAT has published a notice of an appeal brought by Telefonica UK Limited under against Ofcom's determination of a dispute between Telefonica O2 UK Limited (O2) and each of Vodafone Ltd and H3G UK Ltd about wholesale voice call termination charges set in October 2010. Telefonica claims that Ofcom made a number of errors of law in its determination, essentially resulting from Ofcom's failure to follow the approach to dispute resolution explained by the CAT in previous cases. Click here.
  • The CAT has published a transcript of a CMC and an order relating to the timing of the appeal by Tesco against the OFT's decision fining Tesco for its involvement in infringements of the Chapter I prohibition in relation to the retail pricing of cheese. Click here.

Competition Commission

  • The CC has published its final report on the completed acquisition by Kerry Foods Limited of the frozen ready meals business of Headland Foods Limited. Click here.
  • The CC has decided to approve the anticipated acquisition by BATS Global Markets, Inc of Chi-X Europe Limited. Click here.
  • The CC has published a notice of extension in relation to the proposed construction materials joint venture between Anglo American plc and Lafarge SA. Click here.
  • The CC has published a notice of further remedies in its market investigation into movies on pay TV. Click here.

OFT

  • Members of a group of school suppliers in the public sector have given voluntary assurances to the OFT to address concerns about the way in which they compete for business from schools in England. On this basis, the OFT has closed its preliminary inquiry into a complaint without opening a formal Competition Act 1998 investigation. Click here.
  • The OFT has decided to accept binding commitments from six insurance companies and two IT software and service providers to address competition concerns about the exchange of pricing information through a data exchange tool. Click here.
  • The OFT has invited views on a review of the undertakings given by FirstGroup plc in 2004 following its acquisition of the Scottish Passenger Rail which were aimed at remedying competition problems that the CC considered arose on 46 bus routes. Click here.
  • The OFT has published an economic research report on the relationship between competition and growth. Click here.
  • Mergers – invitation to comment: PHS Ltd/ Connect Water Systems (UK) Limited, click here.
  • Mergers – cleared: Tesco Stores Limited/Budgens; One Equity Partners/Linpac; Capita Group plc of Vertex Private Sector; Unifrax I LLC/Saffil; Monaghan Mushrooms/Sussex Mushrooms; Electruepart Limited (Connect Distribution)/ESpares Limited; Cavendish Square Partners (General Partner) Limited/Lakeside 1 Limited (Keepmoat) and Apollo Group Holdings Limited (Apollo); click here.
  • Mergers – full text decisions: Investec/Evolution Group, click here
  • Mergers – undertakings in lieu of a reference: Princes/Premier Foods Group, click Here
  • Mergers – hold separate undertakings: South Staffordshire/Cambridge Water, click Here

Speeches

  • John Fingleton: "The OFT's competition portfolio", click here.

Other

  • Research published by London Economics estimates that for each completed competition enforcement case, up to 40 potential competition law infringements are deterred. Click here.
  • Ofgem has consulted on its intention to accept binding commitments from Electricity North West (ENW) Limited, to address concerns in relation to the charges applied to independent distribution network operators for connection to its network. Ofgem considered that ENW's previous approach to charging could result in a margin squeeze. ENW has subsequently revised its charging methodology, which has resolved most of Ofgem's concerns. Click here.
  • Ofcom has published a further consultation on revised proposals for new charge controls for Local Loop Unbundling and Wholesale Line Rental services. Click here.
  • Ofcom has published a statement setting out its approach to net neutrality. Click here.

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