EU Competition and Regulatory

The unique EU State aid control law requires, in principle, prior notification by Member States and approval by the Commission of all State aid. During a time of crisis, like the COVID-19 pandemic, EU law allows for a flexible approach for approving urgent State aid. In this post, we discuss the current state of play in the EU and offer some general items to consider for undertakings receiving State aid during this extraordinary time.
Continue Reading COVID-19 Outbreak and Adjusted EU State Aid Control

In a long-awaited ruling of June 18, 2019, the General Court of the European Union (“GCEU”) annulled the European Commission’s 2015 State aid decision in the Micula case (joined cases T-624/15, T-694/15 and T-704/15). The ruling provides valuable clarifications regarding the relationship between intra-EU bilateral investment treaties (“BIT”) and EU State aid rules.

In sum, the GCEU confirmed that the European Commission lacked jurisdiction to apply EU law in a situation where all relevant events took place before accession to the EU. The validity of intra-EU BITs was not at issue because, during the relevant time period, the BIT in question (the 2002 Sweden-Romania BIT) was between a Member State (Sweden) and a third country (Romania).
Continue Reading International Arbitration, Investment Protection and EU State Aid Rules: the General Court of the EU Annuls the European Commission’s State Aid Decision in the Micula Case

The intricate syndicated loan market has recently triggered attention from competition authorities internationally. Recently, the Spanish competition authority fined €91 million a syndicate of four Spanish banks. The Directorate General for Competition (DG COMP) of the European Commission launched a study on the topic in April 2017 (COMP/2017/008 – EU loan syndication and its impact on competition in credit markets). In anticipation of the results of this study, which are expected by the end of 2018 or early 2019, we highlight some of the competition law risks that may cause greater concern.
Continue Reading Loan Syndication and EU Competition Law

With its recent imposition of a record 4.3 billion EUR fine against Google for abuse of dominant position, the European Commission may have cemented its reputation for taking an aggressive enforcement stance against US tech giants, particularly when contrasted with the US antitrust enforcers’ more hands-off approach in this sector.
Continue Reading Big in Europe? What Multinationals Need to Know about Competing on the Continent

Following the publication and consultation on a green paper earlier this year the UK Government has now published new takeover rules, adding new thresholds to the relevant provisions of the UK Enterprise Act giving the Secretary of State (SoS) additional powers to scrutinize mergers taking place after July 11, 2018. These powers are based on public interest in transactions that raise national security concerns and in which the Government would have otherwise not been able to intervene. This is part of the UK Government’s wider review of national security and infrastructure investment review which will bring additional legislative changes in future. The Government’s stated reasons for the new rules include technological and economic changes as well as a changing national security threat which meant that thresholds were no longer effectively safeguarding the UK’s national security in all areas of the economy. In addition to giving the SoS broader grounds to intervene the additional rules also add a new jurisdictional test for merger review and as such apply to the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) which is responsible for reviewing such mergers on competition law grounds.
Continue Reading New Lower UK Thresholds for Scrutiny of Mergers Affecting National Security

Introduction

Our “trends for 2018” are only a selection of interesting developments to watch for in 2018.

Within the political and legislative cycle of the European Union, 2018 promises to be an eventful year, given that it is the last full year before the 2019 EU elections when a new European Commission will be appointed and the European Parliament will hold new elections. This means, in practice, that there will be pressure in 2018 on the current European Commission and European Parliament to act on all their initiatives and to complete their legislative agenda.

Our team of EU lawyers will continue to report on noteworthy developments including for instance, Brexit and its implications for competition and regulatory policies, the surge in foreign direct investment controls, the opening of new competition enforcement fronts, the practical implementation of the EU damages directive, as well as the development of alternative means of resolution in competition investigations and their impact on rights of defence.
Continue Reading 10 EU Competition & Regulatory Trends to Watch for in 2018

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) confirmed in a short judgment of 6 December 2017 that a prohibition imposed on authorized distributors from using third party platforms for the sale of their luxury products is in line with European competition law provided certain conditions are met. This judgment also ends an ongoing debate and confirms that selective distribution systems are indeed permissible if they are used to preserve and enhance the luxury image of a product. This outcome is not surprising to those familiar with the Court’s case law and is welcomed by companies running selective distribution networks to market their luxury products. However, the judgment is specific to the facts at hand and bans relating to online platforms will have to be reviewed on the basis of the merits of each case and of the products concerned.
Continue Reading Selective Distribution Systems and Bans on Sales of Luxury Products via Online Market Platforms: Initial Thoughts on the CJEU’s Coty Judgment

According to the longstanding case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union (the “Court”), rebates which are conditional upon a purchaser buying all or most of its requirements from a dominant supplier (so called “exclusivity” or “loyalty” rebates) have been presumed to be abusive on the basis that they are by their very nature anticompetitive. The Intel judgment of 6 September 2017 marks a shift by the Court from this per se approach: for the first time, the Court suggests the need for an assessment of their anticompetitive effects on a case by case basis.
Continue Reading Takeaways from the Intel Judgment on the Legality of Exclusivity Rebates in the EU

The existing EU regulatory framework for electronic communications obliges the EU Member States to provide in their national laws for certain powers and responsibilities of national regulatory authorities (“NRA”), in particular related to the analysis of markets likely to be regulated ex-ante. The fundamental principle since 2003 is that only companies with significant market power (“SMP”) shall be made subject to ex-ante obligations. This is a carefully balanced regulatory system, taking into account the important goal of stimulating market entry, and thus promoting effective competition, while at the same time establishing adequate investment incentives for the network operators.
Continue Reading EU Telecoms Regulation Based on Unilateral Market Power Would be Contrary to EU Law

In years past, the focus of private international antitrust disputes was the United States. Over a century of experience, treble damages, class actions and the American rule for attorneys’ fees – plus robust enforcement by the Antitrust Division – have combined to make the United States the natural hub for private cases. That is still true today, but to a lesser extent because emerging private remedies and processes have made European jurisdictions much more viable, and U.S. courts are taking an increasingly close look at the limits of their jurisdiction. The result is litigation increasing across newly empowered jurisdictions: sophisticated and well informed coordination, case management and overarching strategy now are critical.
Continue Reading Eyes Across the Atlantic: Coordination and Management of Global Private Antitrust Litigation*