parliment flags

On 27 February 2014, the European Commission opened a consultation inviting comments on a proposal to extend the validity of the liner shipping consortia block exemption (Regulation 906/2009). Liner shipping consortia are groups of independent liner shipping operators who agree to provide joint maritime cargo transport services to rationalise their operations and minimise costs. Adopted in September 2009, Regulation 906/2009 replaced an earlier consortia block exemption, Regulation 823/2000, from its expiry on 26 April 2010 (OJ 2009 L256/31). Regulation 906/2009 –Read More–

On 18 February 2014, the German Federal Cartel Office (Bundeskartellamt) imposed fines totaling around €280m on the three major German sugar manufacturers Pfeifer & Langen GmbH & Co. KG, Südzucker AG and Nordzucker AG for fixing prices, setting quotas and sharing markets. The infringements involved the sale of industrial and consumer sugar and took place over several years dating back to the mid ‘90s until the Bundeskartellamt started investigations in 2009. The sugar producers had formed a “territorial cartel” and –Read More–

Late last year, the EU Commission announced it had opened an in-depth investigation into the €8-billion merger between the German arm of Telefonica, the Spanish telecoms giant and owner of the O2 network in the UK, and E-Plus, a German network. Telefonica in Germany and E-Plus together represent two of the four major mobile telecoms providers in Germany. Their proposed merger has raised competitive concerns in Germany where mobile prices are already high in comparison to other EU Member States. –Read More–

On 25 February 2014, the EU Commission announced that it had sent a Statement of Objections (“SO”) to two businesses for allegedly providing the Commission with misleading market shares and an incorrect assessment of the total market. The companies, Ahlstrom Corporation and Munksjo Oyj of Norway and Munksjo AB of Sweden, notified a merger to the Commission for the transfer of their respective label and processing business for sandpaper and other abrasive papers to a new entity, Munksjo Oyj in –Read More–

Applying finite resources to almost infinite market problems is a common concern for any regulator. The new UK super competition regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority, comes into force on the 1st April 2014 and has indicated that it will be more active than its predecessor, the Office of Fair Trading, in hunting down cartel activity. Both the OFT and the EU Commission (who regulates competition across the EU) have leniency or whistleblower programmes in place. Companies can approach the –Read More–

On 17 February 2014, the English Court of Appeal ordered the Competition Appeal Tribunal (“CAT”) to reconsider its earlier decision which struck down Ofcom’s (the UK telecom regulator) decision to make Sky provide Sky Sports channels on a wholesale basis to BT, their leading competitor in the pay-TV market. The case goes back to a 2010 ruling when Sky was ordered by Ofcom to supply Sky Sports to other pay-TV providers under its powers derived from the Communications Act 2003. –Read More–

The Financial Conduct Authority (the “FCA”) launched a market study into retirement income on February 14th following their own report that the pension annuities market was not working well for consumers. Annuities are a guaranteed income for life. They are a financial product purchased by those turning their accumulated pension earnings into income upon retirement. Perhaps the most significant feature and worrying aspect of the report is the fact that eight of out ten consumers who purchase their annuity from –Read More–

On 11 February 2014, the Dusseldorf Higher Regional Court in Germany imposed a €55million fine on Melitta Europe GmbH & Co. KG. The judgment confirms that a company cannot avoid liability for a fine imposed by the German competition regulator, the Bundeskartellamt, by carrying out a corporate reorganisation. Melitta, a coffee producer, had according to the Bundeskartellamt instigated an internal reorganisation of their group company structures to try and avoid the fine imposed on them in 2009. The original fine –Read More–

On 11 February 2014, the European Commission ordered Poland to recover over €22million it had allocated to the building and running of a new airport in Gdynia, northern Poland. The state aid was granted by the Gdynia and Kosakowo region for the building of a new commercial airport on the site of a current military airport. The decision acts a reminder of the analysis the Commission will undertake when deciding whether state aid has been allocated legally or not. In –Read More–

On 11th February 2014 the European Council adopted a package of measure which signal a major modernisation and reform of the existing public procurement rules in the EU. The current procurement rules date back to 2004. The legislative package consists of the following:- • New Public Sector Directive:- a directive on public procurement by the public sector (replacing Council Directive 2004/18/EC); • New Utilities Directive:- a directive on procurement by entities operating in the utilities sectors: water, energy, transport and –Read More–

On January 30, 2014, the UK’s Office of Fair Trading (OFT) published final principles for online and in-app games and games producers, which must be implemented by April 1, 2014. Failure to do so can result in enforcement action by the OFT, or the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) when it replaces the OFT and begins full operations on April 1. Once amendments to the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations are adopted, consumers will also have a direct right –Read More–

On the 10 February 2014, the UK Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, Ed Davey, called for the market share and profit margins of the UK’s largest gas suppliers to be investigated. Mr Davey suggested that the fact that the largest 6 gas companies have an average profit margins of around 6% in gas supply whilst their electricity supply operates at a margin of under 2%, must be investigated. He singled out British Gas in particular due to –Read More–

On 6 February 2014, Joaquin Almunia, Vice President of the Commission responsible for Competition Policy, gave a speech at University College London on competition in financial markets. He commented that the EU internal market and the implementation of EU competition law are key public policy instruments to restore the health of the EU economy back to its pre-crisis levels but that there was still along way to go. He believed that a competitive and open internal market was crucial to –Read More–

On Thursday 23 January 2014, the UK Government introduced the Consumer Rights Bill to Parliament. In a major policy shift the UK Government has committed itself to reforming the competition litigation landscape to make it easier for businesses and individuals to claim compensation against anti-competitive behaviour. The UK reforms go much further than those proposed by the EU in its draft Directive on encouraging private rights of action for breach of competition law which is currently going through the EU –Read More–

Two UK carpet companies have agreed to amend their pricing practices following objections from the Office of Fair Trading (the “OFT”), the UK competition regulator. The companies have given undertakings to the OFT not to advertise recommended retail prices (“RRP“) that were not genuine and to use phrases such as “closing down sale” without being clear about the terms of the promotion. Although phrasing such as “closing down sale” is not usually taken seriously by savvy UK consumers, the OFT –Read More–

The beginning of a new year is a natural time for change and re-evaluation. As a company looks to make improvements or address issues for the coming year, an area of concern may be the building and/or preservation of its brand reputation. Companies sometimes face erosion of brand reputation and/or customers satisfaction as a result of severe discounting by resellers. This problem seems to be more likely for manufacturers of brands built on premium or luxury and/or the need for –Read More–

This live one hour broadcast presented by Robert Bell and Anita Esslinger will provide insight into vertical restraints in product distribution systems and how to draft them in compliance with EU competition law. The webinar will examine common issues such as resale pricing, internet distribution and territorial protection. This presentation will be of practical use to any company which distributes products in the EU and will cover both tips for compliance as well as highlighting common pitfalls. Date: Wednesday, 26 February 2014 –Read More–

On 29 January 2014, the EU Commission published a decision leveling a fine against the members of a foam cartel. The cartel was between four producers of polyurethane foam, a type of foam used in mattresses, car seats and sofas. The four companies involved were Eurofoam, Carpenter, Recticel and Vita who were alleged to have conspired between 2005 and 2010 in several EU Member States to fix prices and pass on costs to consumers in order to avoid price competition –Read More–

In a development which will be closely studied by the UK hotel and hospitality industry, UK competition regulator the Office of Fair Trading (the “OFT”) has accepted formal commitments from two of the UK’s largest online travel agents, Booking.com B.V. (Booking.com) and Expedia Inc (Expedia), together with InterContinental Hotels Group plc (IHG), which will enable online travel agents (OTA’s) and hotels to offer discounts on rates for hotel rooms. The OFT said that the commitments should increase competition within the –Read More–

Class actions, or collective actions as they are known in Europe, have long been a mainstay of US law but have never seen EU wide adoption due to an innate European fear of unmeritorious litigation sometimes encountered in the US class action system. However, given the historically low use of these actions and competition litigation throughout Europe, the EU recently proposed a draft Directive intended to encourage competition and collective action litigation throughout European courts, albeit, one which avoids encouraging –Read More–