Competition & Antitrust updates

Austria

Contributed by Preslmayr Attorneys at Law
Family business and group privilege
  • Austria
  • 27 February 2020

The cartel prohibition applies to activities between independent undertakings; however, it does not apply to activities between a controlling and a controlled undertaking, as such a subsidiary would not enjoy economic independence. This concept is referred to as 'single economic entity', which such a 'family' of undertakings may enjoy. In a recent case, the Supreme Court reviewed the question of whether such a concept would also apply in relation to a jointly controlled undertaking.

Amazon slightly changes course
  • Austria
  • 15 August 2019

Amazon has offered to change its terms and conditions following a series of Federal Competition Authority (FCA) investigations regarding business practices on the 'Amazon.de' marketplace. The FCA conducted an extensive market survey in which approximately 400 of the top-selling Austrian marketplace traders on 'Amazon.de' were interviewed in writing and via telephone. The survey results showed that Amazon had market power for a representative selection of larger Austrian marketplace traders.

Fig leaf for 'naked' cartel
  • Austria
  • 24 January 2019

A recent Cartel Court decision demonstrates how a long-term relationship between Semperit and a group of Thai companies turned into an equally lengthy disagreement, which came to a decisive turning point in the courts. The final blow landed with a decision by the Federal Cartel Authority, which imposed a fine of €1.6 million on Semperit for violating the Austrian Cartel Act and Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

David versus Goliath: FCA submits draft guidelines on good conduct of entrepreneurs
  • Austria
  • 30 August 2018

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.

The devil is in the details: transaction value draft guidelines
  • Austria
  • 24 May 2018

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.


Belgium

Brussels Commercial Court rules that SABAM abused its dominant position
  • Belgium
  • 02 August 2018

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.


Bosnia and Herzegovina

Contributed by Schoenherr
Impact of COVID-19 on Competition Authority operations
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • 21 May 2020

On 17 March 2020 the government declared a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the state of emergency, Competition Authority operations have continued. However, as office access is not permitted, only postal filings and submissions are accepted (ie, in-person filings are not allowed) and face-to-face meetings cannot be held. For now, the Competition Authority's filing and review deadlines remain unaffected.

BiH Competition Council introduces new tariffs
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • 22 November 2018

The Bosnia and Herzegovina Competition Council will apply new tariffs as from November 2018. Among these, the most significant are the increased merger control clearance fees, which have doubled. The council took inspiration for the new tariffs from those of other regional competition authorities, including the Serbian and Montenegrin commissions.

Competition Council – no concentration when company takes over competitor's premises
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • 21 December 2017

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.

New Competition Act expected in 2018
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • 14 December 2017

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.

New Competition Council members appointed
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • 20 July 2017

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).


Brazil

Petrobras closes abuse of dominance investigations through divestment commitments
  • Brazil
  • 26 September 2019

State-owned oil and gas company Petrobras recently reached two settlements with the Administrative Council for Economic Defence to close five investigations into alleged abuses of dominance in the oil refining and domestic natural gas markets. The settlements have drawn significant attention, as they constitute the first time that divestment commitments have been adopted as a remedy in a dominance case.

Importance of contractual control in merger review
  • Brazil
  • 06 June 2019

The Administrative Council for Economic Defence recently issued a decision on the definition of 'de facto control' under Brazilian competition law. While the decision establishes certain criteria that companies should consider when determining whether their contractual relationships with close partners may confer de facto control, these criteria are somewhat unclear and do not allow companies to assess, with sufficient certainty, whether an agreement should be subject to mandatory review.

Just desserts: CADE fines company for exclusivity practices in ice cream market
  • Brazil
  • 07 March 2019

The Administrative Council for Economic Defence (CADE) tribunal recently fined Unilever R29.4 million for abusing its dominant position in the impulse ice cream (ie, ice cream for immediate consumption) market. According to CADE, Unilever had violated competition law by adopting different types of agreement with its points of sale, which had resulted in their de facto exclusivity to sell Unilever ice creams under the brand Kibon.

CADE requires ex post review of transactions that do not meet minimum turnover thresholds
  • Brazil
  • 20 December 2018

The Administrative Council for Economic Defence (CADE) recently requested, for the second time, the compulsory notification of a transaction that did not meet the legal turnover thresholds. This right allows the authority to review the business strategies of successive small acquisitions or acquisitions of nascent rivals in the event that they do not trigger the turnover thresholds. The risk that the CADE may require notification seems to increase following complaints by competitors or third parties.

Reshuffled CADE adopts new approach for IP cases
  • Brazil
  • 29 November 2018

In recent years, Brazil's antitrust authority – the Administrative Council for Economic Defence (CADE) – has undergone a reshuffling in terms of the composition of both the Administrative Tribunal (comprising commissioners) and the General Superintendence. Among the issues that have come before the reshuffled CADE, two investigations are particularly notable because they reveal a new trend in its approach to IP rights.


Bulgaria

Contributed by Schoenherr
CPC activity during COVID-19 crisis
  • Bulgaria
  • 23 April 2020

The government recently declared a national state of emergency as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. This article outlines the impact of this declaration on Commission for the Protection of Competition (CPC) activities, including in relation to CPC operations and competition law enforcement.

CPC introduces simplified and more extensive merger filing guidelines
  • Bulgaria
  • 30 January 2020

The Commission for the Protection of Competition (CPC) recently introduced new merger filing guidelines. The former guidelines did not differentiate between transactions, despite potential competition concerns. The new guidelines address this practical problem and provide for two types of filing: a simplified merger filing for mergers that are unlikely to raise competition concerns and a more extensive merger filing for concentrations which are expected to significantly affect the relevant markets.

CEZ Bulgaria not for sale
  • Bulgaria
  • 19 December 2019

CEZ Bulgaria is not for sale. This seems to be the (implicit) conclusion of the Commission on the Protection of Competition's (CPC's) decision prohibiting Eurohold Bulgaria AD's acquisition of all of CEZ Group's Bulgarian assets. The CPC's decision came after a fast-track and in-depth proceeding (Phase II), which ended only 14 days after it was formally opened.

CPC fines snack distributor for unfair solicitation of customers
  • Bulgaria
  • 17 October 2019

The Commission on the Protection of Competition (CPC) recently fined a snack distributor 4% of its annual turnover for the unfair solicitation of customers. The commission relied on its earlier practice to determine whether a promotional campaign launched by the distributor had infringed the Competition Protection Act. This decision is a helpful reminder that in order to avoid competition law violations, companies must carefully consider which prizes to offer in promotional campaigns.

Funeral agency fined for not complying with earlier CPC decision
  • Bulgaria
  • 25 July 2019

The Commission on the Protection of Competition (CPC) recently issued a decision in which it penalised the funeral agency Elida MG EOOD (formerly Pokoy-1945 EOOD) for failing to comply with an earlier CPC decision. Such cases in which an undertaking fails to comply with a CPC decision and is therefore fined again are extremely rare due to the substantial pecuniary penalties which may be imposed on violators.