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Focus Antitrust - 22 April 2015

22 April 2015

In The News

European Commission sends statement of objections to Google and opens new investigation

The European Commission has sent a Statement of Objections to Google alleging the company has abused its dominant position in the markets for general internet search services by systematically favouring its own comparison shopping product (Google Shopping) in its general search results pages.  Although Google has previously offered commitments to the Commission in this area, the Commission does not consider these to be sufficient to address its concerns.  The Commission has also opened a new investigation into Google's conduct as regards the mobile operating system Android. The investigation will focus on whether Google has entered into anti-competitive agreements or abused a possible dominant position in the field of operating systems, applications and services for smart mobile devices.  Click here.

European Commission sends Statement of Objections to Gazprom for alleged abuse of dominance on Central and Eastern European gas supply markets

The European Commission has sent a Statement of Objections to Gazprom alleging that some of its business practices in Central and Eastern European gas markets constitute an abuse of a dominant position in breach of Article 102.  On the basis of its investigation, the Commission's preliminary view is that Gazprom is pursuing an overall strategy to partition Central and Eastern European gas markets, for example by reducing its customers’ ability to resell gas cross-border, and that this may have enabled Gazprom to charge unfair prices in certain Member States.  The Commission is also concerned that Gazprom may have abused a dominant position by making the supply of gas dependent on obtaining unrelated commitments from wholesalers concerning gas transport infrastructure.  Click here. 


Articles 101 and 102
  • The European Commission has announced that the competition authorities of Sweden, Italy and France have accepted commitments offered by Booking.com in relation to so-called parity clauses contained in Booking.com's agreements with hotels. The parity clauses oblige hotels to offer Booking.com the same or lower room prices as the hotel makes available on all other online and offline distribution channels. The three competition authorities had concerns that these clauses may restrict competition between Booking.com and other online travel agents and hinder new booking platforms from entering the market. The final commitments will be implemented as of 1 July 2015 in Sweden, Italy and France and will, amongst other things, allow hotels to offer lower room prices on other online hotel booking websites. The European Commission assisted the three authorities in coordinating the investigations.  Click here.
  • The European Commission has confirmed that, on 24 March 2015, Commission officials carried out an unannounced inspection in Spain at the premises of a company active in the production, distribution and trading of ethanol, a biofuel.  It follows inspections that the Commission and the EFTA Surveillance Authority undertook in May 2013 in the crude oil, refined oil products and biofuel sectors and inspections that the Commission undertook in October 2014 in the biofuel sector.  Click here.
  • The European Commission has confirmed that, on 24 March 2015, Commission officials undertook unannounced inspections at the premises of companies active in the production or trading of bioethanol.  The Commission has concerns that the companies may have breached Article 101.  Click here.
  • The European Commission has approved the proposed acquisition of the Portuguese telecommunications operator PT Portugal by the multinational cable and telecommunications company Altice. The decision is conditional upon the divestment of Altice's current Portuguese businesses ONI and Cabovisão. The Commission had concerns that, without the conditions, the merged entity would have faced insufficient competitive constraints from the remaining players on the market for fixed telecommunications. The Commission has also rejected a request to refer the examination of the transaction to the Portuguese competition authority.  Click here.


Competition and Markets Authority
  • The CMA has provisionally decided that there is no material change in circumstances or special reason for it not to implement the remedies in the Ryanair/Aer Lingus merger inquiry.  Click here.
  • The CMA has referred Poundland Group plc’s anticipated acquisition of 99p Stores Limited for an in-depth phase 2 investigation, as the parties have not offered any undertakings.  Click here.
  • The CMA has published an update on its investigation into suspected cartel conduct in respect of the supply in the UK of galvanised steel tanks for water storage. An interim case management hearing on the criminal case against the defendants Mr Stringer and Mr Dean was heard on 17 April at Southwark Crown Court. A further hearing has been set for the court to hear legal arguments on 19 May. The trial date remains set for 1 June and is expected to last 6 to 8 weeks.  Click here.
  • The CMA has provisionally cleared the completed acquisition by Pork Farms Caspian of the chilled savoury pastry business of Kerry Foods.  In its provisional findings, the CMA has provisionally concluded that the merger has not resulted, and may not be expected to result, in a substantial lessening of competition for the products affected by the merger, namely hot pies, cold pies, sausage rolls, and pasties and slices.  Click here.