Competition Law in Europe

On 18 March 2021, the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) largely dismissed the appeal by Pometon against the General Court’s (“GC”) judgment, which previously partially dismissed Pometon’s appeal against the European Commission (“Commission”) steel abrasives cartel decision.
Continue Reading The CJEU accepts the principle of staggered hybrid cartel settlements in Pometon

On 25 March 2021, the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) dismissed the appeals by Lundbeck, Merck KGaA (and Generics UK), Arrow, Alpharma (and Xellia) and Ranbaxy, against the General Court’s (“GC”) judgment upholding the European Commission’s (“Commission”) 2013 pay-for-delay infringement decision.

Background

The case concerns the antidepressant containing the active pharmaceutical ingredient (“API”) citalopram.  Lundbeck’s patents for the API and two processes to produce it were protected in a number of European countries until 2003 (“Lundbeck’s original patents”).  Over time, Lundbeck developed other processes for the production of citalopram, in respect of which it obtained various patents (“Lundbeck’s new process patents”).

In 2002, Lundbeck entered into settlement agreements concerning potential launches of generic versions of citalopram with Generics UK (at the time an indirect wholly-owned subsidiary of Merck KGaA), Alpharma, Arrow and Ranbaxy.  Under the agreements, Lundbeck made payments to these producers of generic citalopram (“Other Providers”) in various forms (e.g., direct payments, purchase of generic citalopram stock for destruction, and guaranteed profits in a distribution agreement).  In exchange, the Other Providers agreed to cease or refrain from selling generic citalopram in the EEA as a whole or in specific Member States.

In 2013, the Commission adopted an infringement Decision against Lundbeck and each of the Other Providers, concluding that the agreements were “by object” restrictions of competition.
Continue Reading The CJEU’s Lundbeck judgment

On 26 March 2021, the European Commission (“Commission”) published a Staff Working Paper summarising the findings of its evaluation of procedural and jurisdictional aspects of EU merger control (the “Evaluation”), along with a communication providing guidance regarding its change in approach to the use of Article 22 of the EU Merger Regulation (“EUMR”) to refer cases over which neither the Commission nor the member states have jurisdiction (“Guidance”). Additionally, the Commission launched an impact assessment on policy options for further targeting and simplification of merger procedures, inviting stakeholders to submit their views by 18 June 2021.
Continue Reading Commission provides guidance regarding its Article 22 policy change

On 17 February 2021, the General Court of the European Union (“General Court”) in Cases T-259/20 and T-238/20 dismissed Ryanair’s challenges to pandemic aid packages introduced in France and Sweden in order to support the domestic airline sector. The judgments are the first ones where the General Court has decided on the legality of the State aid schemes adopted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Continue Reading EU General Court dismisses first two challenges to State aid awarded to national airlines in response to the COVID-19 pandemic

On 27 January 2021, the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) confirmed in Goldman Sachs Group Inc. v European Commission that financial investors can be liable where they hold 100% voting rights over an indirect entity that participated in a cartel, even though the investor does not own 100% of the share capital during the relevant infringement period. Crucially, the judgment highlights the importance of conducting careful due diligence and ensuring competition law compliance for all investors, including financial investors, during the acquisition process.
Continue Reading Goldman Sachs v Commission: The CJEU further expands the parental liability doctrine — private equity businesses and investors tread carefully

Introduction

In its preliminary ruling of 14 January 2021, the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) clarified that the duration of an infringement in the case of bid rigging ends once the essential characteristics of the public tender are determined – which in practice likely means at the signing date of the contract between the winner of the bid (who participated in the bid rigging) and the contracting authority. As such, this decision sets clear time-limits to competition authorities’ enforcement powers when prosecuting bid-rigging cartels. The CJEU provided this guidance in response to a preliminary question from the Supreme Administrative Court of Finland.
Continue Reading The CJEU provides guidance on the end date in case of a bid-rigging cartel

On 19 January 2021, the 10th amendment of the German Act against Restraints of Competition (“ARC”), the so-called ARC Digitisation Act (the “ARC-DA”) entered into force. The ARC-DA brings far-reaching amendments to German competition law, containing inter alia

  • the introduction of a new framework to intervene in the digital sector and a revision of the rules on abuse of dominance including enhanced rules for access to data;
  • significant increases of merger control notification thresholds applicable across industries; and
  • a number of further substantial amendments including a codification of the FCO’s leniency program, the implementation of the European Commission’s ECN+ Directive introducing new powers of the Federal Cartel Office (“FCO”) in the context of inspections, and changes concerning cartel damage claims.

In this blog-post we focus on three core developments: (i) novel powers for intervention in digital markets, (ii) the additional basis for data access claims and (iii) the core amendments to the merger control regime.
Continue Reading Germany: The wind of change – Substantial competition law amendments

Yesterday, the European Commission published its proposals for the Digital Markets Act (“DMA Proposal”) and Digital Services Act (“DSA Proposal”), proposing new regulation of “intermediary services” and “designated gatekeepers”. The proposals would impose new obligations on providers of digital services and augment enforcement powers.
Continue Reading Digital Markets Act Proposal

We recently presented to DG COMP the findings of the immunity and leniency survey 2020, which was conducted jointly by Covington and the Brussels School of Competition. The survey ran from December 2019 to March 2020 and asked competition law practitioners, enforcers and in-house counsels to share their observations on the perceived decline in immunity

In three related judgments of October 5, 2020 (T-249/17, T-254/17 and T-255/17) the General Court (the “GC”) partially annulled European Commission inspection decisions which were the basis for dawn raids on several French retailers. The judgments further develop the position adopted in Czech Railway and Nexans where the GC confirmed that, to launch an inspection (also more commonly referred to as a “dawn raid”), the European Commission (the “EC”) needs to have “reasonable grounds” for suspecting an infringement.
Continue Reading General Court partially annuls dawn raid decisions