UK: Focus Antitrust - 17 December 2014

Last Updated: 31 December 2014
Article by Paul Stone

IN THE NEWS

EUROPEAN COMMISSION FINES FIVE ENVELOPE PRODUCERS €19.4 MILLION IN CARTEL SETTLEMENT

The European Commission has fined Bong, GPV, Hamelin, Mayer-Kuvert and Tompla for coordinating prices and allocating customers of certain types of envelopes, in breach of Article 101. Given their cooperation in the investigation, Tompla, Hamelin and Mayer-Kuvert/GPV benefitted from fine reductions under the Commission's 2006 Leniency Notice. Since all the parties agreed to settle the case with the Commission, the fines were reduced by a further 10% each. Click here.

EUROPEAN COMMISSION APPROVES ACQUISITION OF LAFARGE BY HOLCIM, SUBJECT TO CONDITIONS

The European Commission has cleared the proposed acquisition of Lafarge of France by Holcim of Switzerland. Both companies are active worldwide in the manufacture and supply of cement, ready-mix concrete, aggregates and other construction materials. The decision is conditional on the divestment of Lafarge businesses in Germany, Romania and the UK and of Holcim operations in France, Hungary, Slovakia, Spain and the Czech Republic. The conditions are consistent with the remedies imposed by the Competition Commission following its market investigation into aggregates, ready-mix concrete and cement in the UK. Click here.

EUROPEAN COMMISSION OPENS PHASE II MERGER INVESTIGATION INTO COFFEE JOINT VENTURE BETWEEN DEMB AND MONDELĒZ

The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation into the proposed joint venture between coffee manufacturers Douwe Egberts Master Blenders (DEMB) of the Netherlands and Mondelēz of the US. Both companies own popular brands: DEMB owns L'Or, Douwe Egberts, Senseo and Merrild, while Mondelēz owns Carte Noir, Jacobs, Gevalia, and Tassimo. The Commission has concerns that the proposed transaction may reduce competition for various coffee formats in Austria, France, Denmark and Latvia and for single-serve systems in a large number of Member States. The companies offered commitments, but the Commission concluded that they were insufficient to remove the concerns raised. Click here.

EU

ARTICLES 101 AND 102

  • The European Commission has announced the launch of market tests of commitments offered as part of investigations by the French, Swedish and Italian competition authorities into parity clauses in the contracts between Booking.com and hotels. The clauses oblige the hotel to offer Booking.com the same or better room prices than the hotel makes available on all other online and offline distribution channels. The competition authorities consider that these clauses may breach their respective national competition laws as well as Article 101 and/or Article 102. Booking.com has proposed to abandon the parity requirement in respect of prices which the hotel makes available to other online travel agents, although the hotel would still be required to offer the same or better room prices to Booking.com as are offered on the hotel's own online and offline booking channels. Click here.
  • The General Court has handed down judgments in appeals against the European Commission paraffin wax cartel decision. The General Court has dismissed the majority of the appeals. However, it reduced the fine imposed on ENI from EUR29.1 million to EUR18.2 million, finding that the Commission erred in concluding that ENI was a repeat offender. This was on the basis that the repeat offences concerned the PVC and polypropylene cartels, where ENI was not an addressee of the Commission decisions, because the infringements were committed by companies that only subsequently became part of ENI. Click here.
  • The General Court has handed down its judgment in the appeal against the European Commission's decision finding that the Ordre national des pharmaciens (ONP) had infringed Article 101 by taking actions which restricted the ability of certain groups of laboratories to enter the French market for clinical biology analysis. The General Court has upheld the Commission's decision, finding that, although the competition rules do not apply to activities which are connected with the exercise of the powers of a public authority, ONP does not have regulatory powers and brings together pharmacists, at least some of whom carry on an economic activity and may be regarded as undertakings. However, the General Court reduced the fine imposed on ONP from EUR5 million to EUR4.75 million, finding that the Commission erred in failing to recognise a particular mitigating circumstance. Click here.
  • The Advocate General's Opinion has been handed down on the appeal against the judgment of the General Court, which largely upheld the European Commission banana importers cartel decision. The Advocate General considers that most of the General Court's findings should be upheld, but that the General Court erred in reducing one of the parties' fines on account of its voluntary responses to information requests, on the basis that these were simply part of the expected ongoing duty of cooperation under the leniency procedure. Click here.

MERGERS

  • The European Commission has cleared the acquisition of aviation fuel supplier Statoil Fuel & Retail Aviation by BP. The decision is conditional on the divestment of Statoil's activities at the airports of Stockholm, Malmö, Gothenburg and Copenhagen. Click here.

UK

CMA

  • The CMA is consulting on proposed undertakings in lieu of a reference for Immediate Media's acquisition of a number of magazines from Future Publishing Limited. Click here.

OFCOM

  • Ofcom has invited the Premier League to attend a state of play meeting in the week commencing 15 December 2014 in relation to its Competition Act investigation into the sale of live UK audio-visual media rights to Premier League matches. Ofcom has also extended the invitation to any Premier League club member playing in the 2014/15 Premier League season that wishes to participate. Click here.

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