Discriminatory pricing as an abuse is a little-deployed area of EU antitrust law and there has been no recent enforcement at the European Commission level. The few existing cases concern extreme facts, involving natural or statutory monopolies such as airports or copyright collecting societies. A recent European Court of Justice judgment offers welcome clarification of the case law. It starts with the premise that not all price differences are illegal.
The General Court has confirmed that suppliers may restrict aftermarket access to authorised repairers for their spare parts. Suppliers can refuse unauthorised repairers access, even if they are considered to have a dominant market position over those parts. The case clarifies that even if suppliers are considered to be a monopoly supplier of spare parts or consumables for their installed base of customers, they are still entitled to control how their parts or consumables are distributed.
The European Court of Justice recently dismissed an appeal against a General Court judgment which largely upheld the European Commission's prohibition decision taken against Telefónica and Portugal Telecom for a non-compete covenant in a share purchase agreement. The non-compete agreement purported to restrain the parties from competing in Portugal and Spain "to the extent permitted by law".
The European Commission's decisions in the abuse of dominance cases against Samsung and Motorola in 2014 and the European Court of Justice judgment in Huawei v ZTE in 2015 clarified the limits of standard-essential patent (SEP) holders' rights to seek injunctions against implementers under EU competition law. However, these cases left a number of important issues unresolved. As such, the European Commission recently presented its guidance on SEP licensing.
The European Court of Justice recently clarified a number of thorny issues regarding excessive pricing, which had been otherwise unaddressed by previous case law. The ECJ offered answers to the questions of how many countries must be surveyed when seeking to demonstrate excess through cross-border comparisons, how relative purchasing power should be taken into account and whether a defendant can claim that average prices are fair even if specific customer rates are not.