Belgium: Belgian Competition Authority Fines Belgian National Lottery For Abuse Of Its Dominant Position

Last Updated: 20 October 2015
Article by Martin Favart

On 23 September 2015, the College of Competition Prosecutors (Auditoraat / Auditorat) of the Belgian Competition Authority (Belgische Mededingingsautoriteit / Autorité belge de la concurrence) ("BCA") imposed a fine of 1,190,000 EUR on the Belgian National Lottery, in the context of the second settlement procedure ever completed under Belgian competition law.

The National Lottery holds a statutory monopoly on the market for public lotteries in Belgium. On 15 January 2013, the National Lottery decided to extend its activities to the sports betting market with the launch of a new sports betting product called "Scooore!".

In May 2013, Stanleybet Belgium NV, Stanley International Betting Ltd, Savegas S.A., World Football Association S.P.R.L. and Samenwerkende Nevenmaatschappij Belgische PMU S.C.R.L., which are also active on the sports betting market, complained to the BCA that the National Lottery had committed several abuses of dominant position. Further to these complaints, the BCA opened an investigation, which led the BCA to carry out dawn raids at the premises of the National Lottery in July 2013.

The case took a new turn at the end of 2014, when the BCA offered to the National Lottery the possibility to initiate settlement proceedings. Under this procedure, the undertaking concerned acknowledges the existence of an infringement in return for a 10% reduction of the fine and a shorter procedure.

Under the settlement procedure, the National Lottery accepted the BCA's finding that it was dominant on the market for public lotteries, where it holds a statutory monopoly, and acknowledged two forms of abusive conduct on this market.

First, the National Lottery recognised having used the contact details of persons registered in a database constituted in the context of its monopoly on public lotteries, in order to advertise the launch of "Scooore!" in a one-off email sent to these persons in January 2013. The College of Competition Prosecutors found that the use of this database did not constitute "competition on the merits" and that the competitors of the National Lottery on the sports betting market could not have duplicated such a database at a reasonable cost and within a reasonable timeframe.

Second, the National Lottery acknowledged that it had collected sensitive information on its competitors on the sports betting market through specific distributors of "Scooore!".

The College of Competition Prosecutors, in charge of conducting settlement procedures on behalf of the ABC, calculated the fine on the basis of the most recent 2014 version of the fining guidelines, which took inspiration from the European Commission 2006 Fining Guidelines. It did not identify any aggravating circumstances but took into account two mitigating circumstances, i.e., the absence of any evidence of an actual anticompetitive effect of the abuse and the full cooperation of the National Lottery during the investigation. Finally, the fine was decreased by 10% as a result of the acceptation of a settlement by the National Lottery.

Under Belgian competition law, settlement decisions cannot be appealed. This settlement decision therefore closes the case.

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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