In April 2020 the Competition Appeal Tribunal (CAT) dismissed a challenge by Ecolab, Inc of the Competition and Markets Authority's (CMA's) decision in its final report on Ecolab's completed acquisition of The Holchem Group Limited, including in relation to the CMA's required divestiture remedy. The CAT's judgment confirms the CMA's ability to reject proposed remedies where it does not have a high degree of confidence that they will effectively address identified competitive concerns.
The Competition Protection Agency has initiated an investigation into a potential restrictive agreement or concerted practices among four energy companies. The agency has reasons to believe that the companies breached Article 6 of the Prevention of the Restriction of Competition Act and Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union by agreeing to accept returns of only their own liquefied petroleum gas cylinders.
In June 2020 the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) made a number of announcements regarding certain investigations into resale price maintenance (RPM) within the UK musical instruments sector. However, these announcements have wider consequences in the context of the CMA's enforcement activities more generally in relation to RPM.
The Federal Cartel Office (FCO) has given further advice on the development of a business-to-business internet platform in a recently published case report on OLF Germany. The FCO's main concerns are the increased transparency between competitors on the platform and the transfer of information to OLF's shareholder Shell.
In 2018 the Competition Board imposed administrative fines amounting to TL143 million on three retail electricity sales companies (RESCs) and one electricity distribution company for abusing their dominant positions in various markets. In three separate decisions regarding the appeal of the fines, the Ankara 13th Administrative Court rejected all of the claims raised by the RESCs and upheld the board's decision. The decisions may have significant consequences with respect to anti-competitive effects.
The government has published details of the National Security and Investment Bill, which will introduce a foreign direct investment screening regime in the United Kingdom. This follows on from recent revisions to the UK merger control regime, which introduced a new public interest criterion (in relation to public health emergencies) and lowered the jurisdictional thresholds applicable to certain activities in the United Kingdom (relating to AI, cryptographic authentication technology and advanced materials).
The Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) recently initiated an investigation into TikTok, the popular social media platform. TikTok's capacity to generate vast amounts of consumer data and shower its users with ads has already sounded several alarm bells as regulators attempt to make sense of the phenomena that is digitalisation. The HCA took the initiative to scrutinise the platform with a focus on consumer protection.
The Competition Tribunal's recent judgment thoroughly analysed the legality of target discounts offered by a dominant firm to its customers. The tribunal adopted a cautious approach towards retroactive target discounts, ruling that such pricing schemes could be condemned even if an equally efficient competitor was not excluded by the target discount and the level of market foreclosure was limited.
The European Commission recently adopted the 'enlargement package' for 2020, which encompasses reports on candidate and potential candidate countries' progress towards EU accession. The progress reports contain, among other things, an assessment of the level of harmonisation of the Western Balkan countries' national competition laws with EU competition law and practice.
Following the first market study in the consumer protection field in 2019 relating to the application of digital comparison tools, the Hungarian Competition Authority did not hesitate to apply its findings in practice. In early 2020 it imposed a record fine on Booking.com BV for unfair commercial practices. This has now been followed by a decision that Szallas.hu, the biggest local market player and a main competitor of Booking.com, engaged in unfair practices. However, this time, no fine was imposed.
Under pressure from the Federal Cartel Office (FCO), guitar manufacturer Alhambra has distanced itself from influencing the selling prices of wholesalers and distributors. The FCO investigated Alhambra on the suspicion that it had exerted pressure on wholesalers and distributors to comply with minimum prices on the German market and urged distributors to raise their retail prices. The FCO has been active in the field of price fixing in recent years and this article provides a historic round-up of cases.
The Slovenian government has decided that price control measures in the field of fuel products are no longer necessary, meaning that the retail fuel market will be fully liberalised from October 2020. Following deregulation, fair competition in the fuel market will be ensured through the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and its Slovenian equivalents and Articles 6 and 9 of the Prevention of Restriction of Competition Act, which prohibit anti-competitive practices and abuse of dominance in the market.
The Federal Court of Justice recently issued a decision on the statute of limitations for bid-rigging agreements. According to the court, the limitation period does not begin with the conclusion of the contract resulting from the anti-competitive agreement; rather, it begins later with the complete execution of the contract.
After some last-minute delays, the Royal Decree of 31 July 2020 introduced the concept of abuse of economic dependence in Belgium. Following this royal decree, the Belgian Competition Authority has announced an update to its fining guidelines so that they apply to this new abuse.
Many renewable energy investors have challenged the National Energy Control Centre (CENACE) act before the constitutional courts through various amparo actions. Moreover, the Federal Economic Competition Commission has held that the CENACE act affects competition in the electricity industry by indirectly denying solar and wind power plants the possibility of beginning operations and favouring the dispatch of energy from conventional power plants.
In Germany, any form of pressure not to reduce prices below a certain level (including the granting of advantages) is prohibited. However, the Dusseldorf Higher Regional Court has clarified that not every discussion on resale prices is prohibited. Even the termination of a supply relationship by the supplier due to the retailer's sales prices failing to meet its expectations is permissible. However, suppliers should beware: threatening a retailer with non-supply if they fail to enforce a certain price level is illegal.
The Federal Cartel Office (FCO) recently published its Annual Report 2019. This article highlights the topics which the FCO covered in its report, including COVID-19, cartel prosecution, merger control, the digital economy, the energy industry, trade, consumer protection and the Competition Register.
A second-instance court has rejected PKP Cargo's appeal against a Zl14.22 million (€3.2 million) abuse of dominance fine. The Office for Competition and Consumer Protection originally imposed the fine in 2015, as it found that PKP Cargo had abused its dominant position in the domestic rail freight market by unlawfully changing the rules for the sale of freight services, allowing the company to refuse to sign special contracts with competitors.
As the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, increased M&A activity is likely until at least the end of 2020. The pandemic has changed the landscape of M&A, antitrust and foreign direct investment reviews globally in many key areas, including with regard to so-called 'killer acquisitions', failing firm arguments, distressed transactions and gun jumping.
The Competition Board recently published its reasoned decision following a preliminary investigation based on allegations that two companies had violated Article 4 of Law 4054 on the Protection of Competition by determining dealers' resale prices, fixing discount rates and limiting the payment methods of their dealers.