The European Commission's report 'Competition policy for the digital era' is its most substantial step yet towards crystallising the dialogue on the question of how competition law could or should adapt to the rapidly changing technological landscape and the growing role of the digital economy. However, while the report touches on a wide range of ideas and proposals, it openly notes that not all of these are developed in detail or go beyond "very preliminary" conclusions.
Calls to end geo-blocking have grown more audible since the start of the European Commission mandate in 2014 and its digital single market strategy. But does the reality live up to the rhetoric? The commission's new Geo-blocking Regulation sets out certain situations where treating consumers differently is unjustifiable (eg, online and offline sales of goods and services) and applies only to transactions that have a cross-border element.
Discriminatory pricing as an abuse is a little-deployed area of EU antitrust law and there has been no recent enforcement at the European Commission level. The few existing cases concern extreme facts, involving natural or statutory monopolies such as airports or copyright collecting societies. A recent European Court of Justice judgment offers welcome clarification of the case law. It starts with the premise that not all price differences are illegal.
The General Court has confirmed that suppliers may restrict aftermarket access to authorised repairers for their spare parts. Suppliers can refuse unauthorised repairers access, even if they are considered to have a dominant market position over those parts. The case clarifies that even if suppliers are considered to be a monopoly supplier of spare parts or consumables for their installed base of customers, they are still entitled to control how their parts or consumables are distributed.
The European Court of Justice recently dismissed an appeal against a General Court judgment which largely upheld the European Commission's prohibition decision taken against Telefónica and Portugal Telecom for a non-compete covenant in a share purchase agreement. The non-compete agreement purported to restrain the parties from competing in Portugal and Spain "to the extent permitted by law".