The Competition Authority recently put the draft Technology Transfer Block Exemption Regulation forward for public debate. The draft regulation is aligned with the EU Regulation on the Application of Article 101(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union to Categories of Technology Transfer Agreements.
In September 2017 the Competition Authority officially closed the investigation into the mobile phone retail market which it opened following three complaints regarding alleged coordinated practices and potential abuse of dominant position. The authority issued a number of recommendations and intends to continue to monitor the mobile phone retail market until October 2018.
The Competition Authority recently initiated an investigation into the mobile phone market in connection with alleged coordinated practices and potential abuse of the dominant position of the market players. It had been alleged that three telecommunications operators had coordinated a change in standard pre-paid packages.
In 2016 the Competition Authority issued 52 decisions relating to merger control, abuse of dominance and restrictive practices. No fines were imposed in any of the decisions. The authority also reviewed and commented on numerous legislation proposals, including the production and marketing of tobacco and cigarettes and airport fees.
The Competition Authority recently introduced a number of new bylaws. The bylaws aim to regulate short-form procedures on the assessment of concentrations, commitment procedures and the administration of electronic data during Competition Authority inspections.
The Federal Cartel Authority (FCA) recently published for consultation draft guidelines on the good conduct of entrepreneurs. Generally, neither the practices nor the laws as described by the FCA are new. The major issue is fear: smaller and less aggressive enterprises are afraid to lose business if they stand up to their dominant contractual partners in cases where the loss of a contract could lead to their financial collapse.
In 2017 an additional merger threshold was implemented to catch cases that fall below existing turnover thresholds but where the consideration for the transaction exceeds a specified amount and the target is active in the relevant country to a significant extent. While the first cases and legal discussions have shown that there is considerable uncertainty regarding the application of this legislation, new draft guidelines have been published on the application of the new, quite difficult piece of legislation.
To date, the law contains no definition of 'implementation' in relation to mergers. There has been much debate in doctrine regarding whether implementation should be defined broadly as the mere possibility of influencing the target's behaviour, or more narrowly as the actual exercise of such influence. The Cartel Court's case law has followed the narrower definition. However, a recent Supreme Court decision has clarified the matter and reached a different conclusion.
Following some busy years conducting dawn raids in various industries, the Federal Cartel Authority (FCA) recently published guidelines regarding such searches. Although the guidelines contain no big surprises, as they largely reflect the law and the FCA's earlier practice, there are some interesting points – particularly as some of the Austrian legal regime deviates from European law and practice.
At present, the Austrian merger control regime is based on a system of turnover thresholds. Following German legislation and anticipating possible new legislation by the European Union, the new Cartel Act introduces a consideration threshold for which, at least in Europe, there is no practical experience. Due to vague criteria in the law, it is expected that more transactions than envisioned by the legislature will be caught by the new regime or at least notified by careful parties and lawyers.
It is often difficult to clearly demonstrate an abuse of a dominant position by way of excessive pricing. Nevertheless, the Brussels Commercial Court recently seemed to have little doubt that the Belgian Society of Authors, Composers and Publishers' (SABAM's) increased tariffs for concerts and music festivals constituted an abuse of its dominant position. However, what is more interesting is that the court also considered SABAM's existing practice to constitute an abuse of its dominant position.
The Competition College recently refused to initiate a Phase II investigation and approved Volvo Group Belgium's acquisition of various companies belonging to the Kant group, despite concerns that the transaction was likely to result in competition issues. This case demonstrates that a hearing before the Competition College is not just a formality and that parties can successfully contest a prosecutor's findings.
The act transposing the EU Damages Directive into Belgian law was recently officially published. Among other things, the implementation of the directive has established a rebuttable presumption that cartels cause harm, which did not previously exist under Belgian law. In addition, the binding effect of the Belgian Competition Authority's decisions before the Belgian courts now has a legal basis.
In a recent settlement decision, the Belgian Competition Authority imposed total fines of €1.8 million on five undertakings involved in a bid-rigging cartel. The decision relates to a public tender launched in 2008 by Infrabel, the Belgian railway infrastructure operator. The tender was for the delivery and onsite installation of electrical circuit equipment and related technical assistance.
A recent Competition Authority decision is another example of its fight against vertical restraints. The Competition Authority fined yeast supplier Algist Bruggeman and its parent companies €5.5 million for resale price maintenance, exclusive customer allocation, long-term non-compete obligations and abusive exclusionary practices in the market for compressed fresh yeast and stabilised liquid fresh yeast sold to artisan and semi-artisan bakers.
The Competition Council recently took a stand regarding whether a situation in which a food retail company takes over a competitor's business premises and continues the same business activity in those premises constitutes a concentration. The council concluded that such situations should be notified as they are not considered concentrations according to the Competition Act.
The Competition Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina recently set out its objectives and priorities for 2018 in its 2018 Work Programme. One of the council's medium-term objectives is to make market regulation more efficient with the aim of strengthening competition protection. The council has also stressed its dedication to improving its expertise and administrative capacity.
The process for appointing new Competition Council members is now complete and operational. Specific and complex rules exist for the composition of the council and for it to pass decisions. Among other things, there must be two members representing each of the three constituent ethnic groups of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ie, two Serbs, two Bosnians and two Croatians).
The Competition Council's main activities in 2016 included issuing opinions and conducting proceedings pursuant to requests filed by undertakings or ex officio. A total of 50% of the cases filed were processed in 2016, while the remaining cases have been carried over to 2017. The council's total income from administrative fees in 2016 was KM234,574 (approximately €115,000), while collected fines reached KM624,492 (approximately €610,000).
The Competition Council aims to improve its quality system in order to comply with EU legislation and enhance competition law enforcement in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The council's recently published work programme outlines its objectives and priorities for 2017 and ensures its transparency for business and expert communities. The council has stressed that certain issues may arise in the implementation of the work programme, which may affect relevant tasks and activities.
Since the start of 2018, following a period in which it focused on the persecution of cartels, the Administrative Council for Economic Defence (CADE) has directed more resources towards concluding pending abuse of dominance matters and occasionally launching new dominance cases. In so doing, the most pertinent question has become: how will CADE deal with dominance in future?
The Administrative Council for Economic Defence (CADE) and the Central Bank recently entered into a memorandum of understanding. This initiative strengthens the relationship between the two authorities and promotes greater cooperation among them for the analysis of merger cases and anti-competitive practices by financial institutions. It also represents an important step forward, signalling the end to the longstanding dispute between CADE and the Central Bank over jurisdictional conflicts.
The Ministry of Finance recently issued Decree 9,299/2018, which partially changed the structure of the Brazilian Competition Policy System (BCPS). The BCPS undertakes three main activities: preventive control, repressive control and competition advocacy. The restructuring focuses on the promotion of competition advocacy in the country.
As in other jurisdictions, the Brazilian authorities have been striving to build a well-respected leniency programme. Evidence from recent years suggests that before allowing a company to benefit from its leniency programme, the Administrative Council for Economic Defence has become more demanding, requesting strong evidence of the existence of collusion, as well as proof of any (potential) impact in the country.
Under the former Brazilian merger control system, several non-classical M&A transactions were subject to merger review by the Administrative Council for Economic Defence. This broad statutory language left much room for uncertainty. With the introduction of the new law, the open-ended wording of the former law has been replaced by a list of reportable transactions.