UK: Focus Antitrust - Competition Weekly Email Alert - 18 July 2012

Last Updated: 24 July 2012
Article by Paul Stone

IN THE NEWS

European Commission opens proceedings against Microsoft to investigate possible non-compliance with browser choice commitments

The European Commission has opened proceedings against Microsoft in order to investigate whether the company has failed to comply with its 2009 commitments to offer users a choice screen enabling them to choose their preferred web browser. On the basis of information it has received, the Commission believes that Microsoft may have failed to roll out the choice screen with Windows 7 Service Pack 1, which was released in February 2011. Click here.

Ryanair appeals against decision to continue reference

Ryanair has appealed to the CAT the Competition Commission's decision to continue its investigation of Ryanair's minority stake in Aer Lingus. Following the reference being made, Ryanair announced its intention to make a public bid to acquire the entirety of Aer Lingus. Ryanair contends that this bid will give rise to a merger over which the European Commission has exclusive jurisdiction under the EU Merger Regulation and that this exclusive jurisdiction extends to Ryanair's minority stake. It also argues that the Competition Commission is precluded by the duty of sincere cooperation under Article 4(3) of the Treaty on European Union from taking any action which might overlap with those matters being considered by the European Commission. In light of the appeal, the Competition Commission has announced that it is extending its investigation. Click here.

Chair appointed to the new Competition and Markets Authority

The Business Secretary, Vince Cable has announced the appointment of Lord Currie as Chair Designate to the new CMA. As first Chair of the CMA, David Currie will lead the organisational design of the new body and work closely with Government, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) and the Competition Commission (CC) on transition. He will be responsible for establishing the CMA's vision and strategic direction and play a central role in the appointment of its Chief Executive and Board. Click here.

OFT launches review of personal current account market

The OFT has launched a review of the personal current account market. The review will seek to establish how the market has evolved since the OFT's market study in 2008. In particular, it will look at whether initiatives agreed by the OFT with banks have been successful at improving the switching process, increasing the transparency of personal current account charges and allowing people to manage their accounts more effectively. The review follows the Independent Commission on Banking's September 2011 recommendation that the OFT consider making a market investigation reference to the Competition Commission by 2015, if sufficient improvements in the market have not been made by that time. The OFT plans to publish its findings by the end of 2012. Click here.

MOU agreed between the Intellectual Property Office and the OFT

Following the Hargreaves Review recommendation that the IPO should be given new functions in the competition area, the Government has concluded that, where appropriate and permitted under both competition and intellectual property legal regimes, the IPO should strengthen its cooperation with the OFT. The IPO has therefore agreed a Memorandum of Understanding with the OFT. The MOU provides a framework for this cooperation and its includes: procedures for the IPO to refer to the OFT cases where it considers that there may be competition concerns; sharing of knowledge, expertise and best practice in areas of mutual interest; sharing of information, where appropriate and as permitted by law; and technical and policy assistance, where appropriate and as permitted by law, on projects of mutual interest. Click here.

EU

Articles 101 and 102

  • The European Commission has confirmed that on 26 June 2012 it conducted dawn raids at the premises of companies active in the sector of plastic pipes and plastic pipe fittings used in the sewage industry. The Commission has concerns that the companies may have infringed Article 101. Click here.
  • The European Commission has confirmed that on 22 May 2012 it conducted dawn raids at the premises of companies active in the sector of thermal systems for cars. The Commission has concerns that the companies may have infringed Article 101. Click here.
  • The European Commission has sent a statement of objections to suspected participants in the North Sea shrimps cartel. Click here.
  • The European Commission is consulting on revised proposed commitments from Thomson Reuters to address concerns that its licensing practices in relation to Reuters Instrument Codes may be in breach of Article 102. Click here.
  • The ECJ has handed down a ruling on a reference from an Austrian court on the issue of when a public authority is an undertaking for the purposes of Article 102. The ECJ concluded that where a public entity stores data reported by companies (in accordance with legal obligations) and allows the public to search that data in return for remuneration laid down by law, it is not acting as an undertaking for the purposes of Article 102. Click here.

UK

OFT

  • The OFT has accepted undertakings from Shell to sell six retail fuel sites and six auto-LPG sites to address the OFT's competition concerns arising from Shell's completed acquisition of 253 petrol stations from Rontec. As a result, the merger will not be referred to the Competition Commission. Click here.

Competition Commission

  • The Competition Commission has formally cancelled its inquiry into Stagecoach's anticipated acquisition of the North Devon business and assets of First Devon and Cornwall Limited. The CC has received assurances from Stagecoach that the proposed acquisition has been abandoned. Click here.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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