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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 National Council of Agricultural Chambers recently asked the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (UOKiK) to look into potential competition rule breaches in the soft fruit market, especially regarding the sale of gooseberries. According to gooseberry growers, the buying price of gooseberries is too low compared with the potential price of further sale. The UOKiK is set to investigate Poland's soft fruit market over suspected price fixing.
The Federal Cartel Office (FCO) is investigating whether Amazon influences pricing on the Amazon marketplace. According to the FCO, it received numerous complaints from merchants regarding Amazon's conduct. The investigation is one of a number of antitrust measures being undertaken in Germany with regard to powerful platforms (eg, Facebook and Booking.com). The German legislature has also become active and included special provisions for powerful platforms in the upcoming antitrust law.
In a first-instance decision, the Office for the Protection of Competition has fined RITCHY EU sro Kc6.7 million (€270,000) for resale price maintenance practices. According to the decision, RITCHY EU, a distributor of e-cigarettes and refills, violated the Act on the Protection of Competition between 6 September 2017 and 31 March 2019 by imposing on its customers minimum resale prices for the goods concerned.
The Supreme Administrative Court, acting as the second and final instance, recently repealed the Commission for the Protection of Competition's (CPC's) clearance for the acquisition of Pharmastore OOD by Sopharma Trading AD. In its decision, the Supreme Administrative Court ruled that the CPC had failed to analyse the de facto vertical links between Sopharma and CHS.
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.
Pursuant to a complaint filed by Nimco Corner, the Competition Commission initiated an inquiry into, and thereafter issued show cause notices to, two respondents for engaging in deceptive marketing practices under the Competition Act. Similarly, an inquiry was initiated against New Yorker Pizza for alleged deceptive marketing practices based on a complaint filed by The New York Pizza.
As digital platforms become increasingly popular, new competition law concerns are arising both nationally and globally. Denmark has seen several recent cases in which the competition authorities have found that digital platforms infringed competition law. Providers of services acquired via digital platforms (eg, cleaning or accounting) risk infringing competition law if they are not wary of the general terms and conditions used by the platform.
The Anti-monopoly Bureau of the State Administration for Market Regulation recently published the Guidelines on Leniency for Horizontal Monopoly Agreements. The guidelines propose a relatively reliable leniency system under the Anti-monopoly Law, which is of great significance for improving the effectiveness of antitrust enforcement, while providing a valuable source of guidance for Chinese market players to follow.
This article highlights recent developments in Irish competition law, including with regard to merger notifications before the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), the CCPC's final decision in Berendsen/King's Laundry and the CCPC's Annual Report 2019, which covers merger control, competition enforcement and competition law policy.
As in many other European countries, the COVID-19 pandemic forced the Pro League – the Belgian professional football league – to set up an alternative arrangement for the end of the disrupted 2019-2020 football season. Subsequently, football clubs have challenged such decisions to prevent relegation or promotion. In this context, the Belgian Competition Authority and the civil courts recently had to rule on different interim measure requests in the football sector relating to competition law.
In the wake of the global economic crises triggered by the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the Austrian Federal Competition Authority (AFCA) expects an increased number of company takeovers in the coming months; however, the number of mergers in 2020 to date has been lower than in previous years. The AFCA holds that it would not be appropriate to relax merger control for such 'shutdown mergers', as merger control is necessary to protect the Austrian market and the country's long-term economic development.