Several fines were handed out during Summer 2019 for Competition Act infringements. A group of cases regarding bid rigging in the demolition and plumbing industries were settled with fines issued to companies and management. In addition, the Danish association of camera distributors agreed to pay a fine for price coordination and Circle K Denmark A/S was fined for infringing merger control rules.
The Maritime and Commercial Court recently upheld a decision by the Competition Appeals Board which had found that a price coordination agreement between HMN Naturgas I/S, two sub-contractors and a trade association had as its object the restriction of competition. An interesting takeaway from the judgment is that the Maritime and Commercial Court viewed separable components of an agreement in isolation.
In recent months there have been a number of significant cases concerning restrictive agreements in Denmark. For example, a cooperative purchasing society was found guilty of coordinating prices, several judgments were issued regarding cartel infringement in the form of bid rigging in the demolition industry and a company executive was fined for imposing minimum resale prices on hair products.
The Competition Council recently handed down a highly publicised decision finding that the ambulance and assistance company Falck Danmark A/S had abused its dominant position on the Danish market for ambulance and pre-hospital support services by establishing and carrying out a general strategy to exclude its competitor from the market.
There were a number of significant events in Danish competition law in Autumn 2018. For example, one of Denmark's most significant abuse of dominance cases ended following the High Court of Western Denmark's issuance of its final decision. Further, the Competition Appeals Tribunal confirmed that Swedish pharmaceutical distributor CD Pharma AB had abused its dominant position and a widely discussed gun-jumping case was finally decided after a preliminary ruling from the European Court of Justice.
The Supreme Court recently held that an employer had been unjustified to summarily dismiss an employee with retroactive effect after discovering that he had covertly recorded a conversation with his manager. The court had to decide whether the employee's secret audio recording could be regarded as a material breach of the employment relationship and justify summary dismissal.
The Board of Equal Treatment recently found that an amendment to a university lecturer's homeworking agreement and her subsequent termination did not conflict with the Anti-discrimination Act. The board held that there had been no indirect discrimination against the lecturer on the grounds of her national or ethnic origin, as it was her choice of residence rather than her ethnic or national origin that had given rise to the situation that led to her termination.
The Supreme Court recently examined whether the dismissal of a disabled employee from a publicly funded, reduced-hours job when he reached the mandatory retirement age – and the public funding lapsed – violated the Anti-discrimination Act. The court found that the employer's receipt of a subsidy from the local authorities for the reduced-hours job had to be regarded as a clear condition of employment and that the basis of employment had thus lapsed when the wage subsidy ended.
The new government has raised the bar for climate and environmental goals with the aim of making Denmark the world leader in the transition to renewable energy. The government's climate plan calls for a significant focus on the use of wind energy and a new agreement goes even further than the 2018 energy agreement, with plans for an offshore energy island with a capacity of at least 10GW.
The signatories to the Energy Agreement recently decided the location of the first of three new offshore wind farms that will be put up for tender. Unlike previous projects in which the government was responsible for developing the offshore site and preparing the grid connection, the new wind farm will be procured through a procedure in which the winning tender will be responsible for developing and preparing the grid connection.
The government and all parties in Parliament recently entered into an agreement which entails a major commitment to developing green energy by 2030. The agreement contains a broad range of green initiatives and tax reliefs on electricity which aim to encourage Danish consumers to swap fossil fuels for green electricity. Similarly, the planned modernisation of the heating sector aims to provide both companies and consumers with greener and cheaper heating.
The Danish transmission systems for electricity and natural gas are owned, operated and developed by Energinet, an independent public enterprise owned by the state. The government recently made a new political agreement with a broad number of political parties concerning Energinet's future economic regulation, which means that it will become subject to a revenue framework. With the new agreement, Denmark will follow the same regulatory tendencies seen in other northern and western European countries.
A new executive order, which provides a framework for how grid companies can cover operational costs and return of investment, will be one of the most important tools for such companies going forward. The executive order stipulates the rules governing the prices that electrical grid companies can charge consumers to cover the costs of running the grid and has introduced a five-year regulation period.
The Danish Energy Agency estimates that Denmark must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by between 32 million and 37 million tons by 2030 to reach its EU climate goals. To this end, the government recently published a new proposal regarding climate and air policy. The proposal contains 38 specific initiatives and mainly addresses the transport sector, agricultural production, shipping and green transitioning in housing and industry.
The Maritime and Commercial High Court recently granted Danish company Dyrup A/S a preliminary injunction without security against Nowocoat International A/S for design and layout infringement of Dyrup's wood protection products. This decision is notable, as the majority of judges found that it was possible for end-consumers to disregard a well-known trademark and recognise a product only by its design, while also confusing it with another product.