UK: Focus Antitrust, December 19th 2014

Last Updated: 19 December 2014
Article by Paul Stone

CMA issues statement of objections to estate agents and local newspaper

The CMA has issued a statement of objections to an association of estate and lettings agents, some of its members and a newspaper publisher. The statement of objections is addressed to Three Counties Estate Agents Association, Waterfords (Estate Agents) Limited, Castles Property Services Limited, Hamptons Estates Limited and Trinity Mirror Southern Limited. The statement of objections alleges that these companies entered into an agreement which prevented members of the association (including themselves) from advertising their fees or discounts in Trinity Mirror's local newspaper, the Surrey & Hants Star Courier. It also alleges that Waterfords and Hamptons extended the scope of the arrangement, with the cooperation of Trinity Mirror, to prevent any agents (whether members or non-members of the association) from advertising their fees or discounts in the newspaper. Click here.

CMA confirms insurance software merger referral

The CMA has referred the completed acquisition by Xchanging of certain companies of Agencyport for an in-depth phase 2 merger investigation. The CMA had previously announced that it would refer the merger for a full investigation unless Xchanging offered acceptable undertakings to address the CMA's competition concerns that the merger may lead to higher prices or a reduction in choice or quality for Lloyd's registered managing agents or reduce the incentives of suppliers to innovate. As Xchanging has not offered any undertakings, the CMA will now start an in-depth merger investigation and must publish its final decision by 24 May 2015. Click here.

EU

Articles 101 and 102

The European Commission has sent a statement of objections to Pometon for suspected participation in the steel abrasives cartel. In April 2014, the Commission settled with four companies that admitted their involvement in the cartel and imposed fines of €30.7 million. Pometon did not settle and so the case against it is continuing under the standard cartel procedure. Click here.

The General Court has issued a number of judgments on appeals against the European Commission's re-adoption of the Italian concrete reinforcing bar cartel decision. Although the General Court dismissed most of the appeals, it considered that the Commission had failed to establish that two companies formed a single undertaking at the time of the decision and therefore failed to apply the 10% fine ceiling correctly. The General Court also reduced the fines imposed on two other companies, on the basis that the Commission did not take account of the period when these companies did not participate in the cartel. Click here.

The European Court of Justice has issued a ruling on a reference from a Dutch court on whether Article 101 applies to provisions of collective agreements which regulate the minimum fees to be paid to self-employed service providers. The ECJ held that a provision of a collective labour agreement, in so far as it was concluded by an employees' organisation in the name, and on behalf, of members who are genuinely self-employed, does not constitute the result of a collective negotiation between employers and employees, and so is subject to Article 101. This is on the basis that genuinely self-employed members are "undertakings" and the employees' organisation is acting as an "association of undertakings" for the purposes of Article 101. However, the ECJ added that it must be established that the members are not in fact "false self-employed", such that they are actually in a situation comparable to employees. If they are, then a collective labour agreement, in so far as it sets minimum fees, is not subject to the application of Article 101. Click here.

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