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Focus Antitrust - 5 February 2014

In the News

Commission fines foam producers for participation in cartel 

Three producers of flexible polyurethane foam have been fined a total of €114 million by the European Commission for their participation in a price-fixing cartel. Throughout a five year period, the Commission found that the companies colluded to co-ordinate the price of various types of foam in 10 member states. The companies agreed to settle the case with the Commission through use of the cartel settlement procedure and were accordingly awarded a 10% reduction in their fines. A fourth participant received full immunity from fines under the Commission's Leniency Notice. 

AG Kokott delivers opinion on right to claim damages for umbrella pricing

AG Kokott has delivered her opinion on whether there is a right to claim damages from members of a cartel for the loss caused by a company not party to the cartel, which raises its own prices as a result of increased market prices caused by the cartel. This is commonly referred to as umbrella pricing. AG Kokott considered that recovery of loss resulting from umbrella pricing is consistent with the objectives of Article 101, since this kind of loss is foreseeable by the members of a cartel. 

OFT accepts binding commitments in hotel online booking case

The OFT has accepted formal binding commitments from Booking.com and Expedia (two of the UK's largest online travel agents) as well as from InterContinental Hotels Group plc (IHG). The commitments were offered to alleviate the OFT's competition concerns in respect of restrictions on the ability of online travel agencies to offer discounts for room only hotel accommodation bookings. The commitments will enable online travel agents (OTAs) and hotels that deal with the three businesses to offer discounts on hotel room rates, provided that customers sign up to the membership scheme of an OTA or hotel and make one previous undiscounted booking. 


Articles 101 and 102

AG Mengozzi has delivered his opinion in respect of MasterCard's appeal against a General Court judgment that upheld the European Commission’s decision that MasterCard's EEA fall-back multilateral interchange fee (MIF) breached Article 101(1) TFEU. AG Mengozzi considered that the ECJ should dismiss the appeal in its entirety on the basis that the General Court had not erred in finding that MasterCard's decisions setting the MIF were decisions of an association of undertakings, in assessing the MIF’s restrictive effects or concluding that the MIF was not objectively necessary to the operation of the MasterCard system.

  • The European Commission has approved General Electric as purchaser of the businesses that Thermo Fisher agreed to divest as a condition for the Commission to allow its acquisition of Life Technologies. 
  • The European Commission has rejected Germany’s request that review of the proposed acquisition by Telefónica Deutschland (Telefónica) of E-Plus be referred to the German competition authority under Article 9(2)(a) of the EU Merger Regulation. Although the transaction could significantly affect competition in the German markets for retail mobile telephony and wholesale access and call origination on mobile networks, the Commission held that it is more suited to review the proposed transaction given its experience in assessing mergers in the mobile telecommunications sector and the need for a consistent application of the merger control rules in the EU. 


Competition Commission

The CC has published a number of its working papers relating to the regulation of payday lending companies and competition in respect of payday lending as part of its market investigation into the supply of payday lending in the UK. 


The OFT has accepted hold separate undertakings from Care Monitoring & Management Ltd in respect of its completed acquisition of Panztel Ltd. 


A report on media plurality has been published by the House of Lords Select Committee on Communications, following its assessment of a range of proposals on media plurality policy. The report suggests that Ofcom conduct periodic reviews of media plurality and recommends certain changes to the system for reviewing media mergers. 

For more information please contact Paul Stone, Partner

T: +44 (0)20 7203 5110