On 22 June 2022, the EU’s General Court (“GC”) fully dismissed thyssenkrupp’s appeal against the European Commission’s (“Commission”) decision to block its proposed joint venture (“JV”) with Tata Steel in 2019.

This is the first time that the GC has considered the prohibition of a “gap” case under the EU Merger Regulation (“EUMR”) since it annulled the Commission’s prohibition of CK Hutchison’s proposed acquisition of Telefónica UK (O2) in 2020 (“CK Hutchison”) (see our previous blog post here). A “gap” case is a merger in an oligopolistic market that does not result in the creation or strengthening of an individual or collective dominant position. Rather, it risks causing a “significant impediment to effective competition”.

This result may indicate a return to a more traditional approach by the GC as regards “gap” cases than that demonstrated in the CK Hutchison judgment. The judgment also provides helpful guidance on the interpretation of the EUMR and other legal instruments (such as the Market Definition Notice and the Notice on Remedies). The key findings are:

  • Standard of proof: In order to block a “gap” merger, the Commission must show with a sufficient degree of probability that the transaction significantly impedes effective competition in the internal market or in a substantial part of it.
  • SSNIP test: The Commission is not required to apply the SSNIP (small but significant and non-transitory increase in price) test when assessing substitutability between products — it is only one of the methods available to the Commission when defining the market.
  • Remedies: When assessing remedies, it is not necessary to demonstrate that the remedies remove the entire overlap between the merging parties or re-create fully the pre-merger structure in affected markets.
  • Requests for Information (“RFI”): There is no procedural error where the Commission fails to take additional steps (beyond sending systematic reminders) to ensure that recipients respond to an RFI.


Continue Reading EU General Court Upholds Tata Steel/thyssenkrupp JV Prohibition

The UK’s NSI Act comes into force on January 4th, 2022. In these brief audio recordings, our team sets out what companies in the energy, life sciences and technology sectors need to know about the UK’s newly expanded investment control regime. For further details contact any member of our London team.

In this episode, our

The UK’s NSI Act comes into force on January 4th, 2022. In these brief audio recordings, our team sets out what companies in the energy, life sciences and technology sectors need to know about the UK’s newly expanded investment control regime. For further details contact any member of our London team.

In this episode, our

On 3 November, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”) issued a recommendation to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy to replace the EU Vertical Agreements Block Exemption Regulation or ” VABER” with a UK Vertical Agreements Block Exemption Order (“UK Order”) when the VABER expires on 31 May 2022.  The VABER (which provides a safe harbour from the prohibition against anti-competitive agreements for vertical agreements that meet the applicable requirements) formed part of retained EU law following Brexit, but its upcoming expiry triggers the need for a UK Order to be issued in its place.

Continue Reading The UK CMA publishes its recommendation for replacing the retained Vertical Agreements Block Exemption Regulation

The UK’s NSI Act comes into force on January 4th, 2022. In these brief audio recordings, our team sets out what companies in the energy, life sciences and technology sectors need to know about the UK’s newly expanded investment control regime. For further details contact any member of our London team.

In this episode, our

On 6 October 2021, a preliminary ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union (“CJEU”) in Sumal confirmed that follow-on damages actions can be brought against subsidiaries of companies found to have infringed EU competition law. This note briefly analyzes the judgment and the implications thereof.

Continue Reading The CJEU’s Sumal Judgment: Parental Liability is “Going Down”

Introduction

On 23 July 2021, the European Commission (“Commission”) adopted an extension of the scope of the General Block Exemption Regulation (“GBER”). The revised rules concern:

  • Aid for projects funded via certain EU centrally managed programmes under the new Multiannual Financial Framework; and
  • Certain State aid measures that support the green and digital transition and are also relevant for the recovery from the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic.


Continue Reading Amended GBER simplifies State aid rules for projects supporting the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the European Commission (“EC”) is taking steps to stabilise the most affected sectors of the economy. As part of its efforts, the EC has announced its support for the agricultural and food sectors which are severely affected by the pandemic. This includes an exceptional derogation from the EU competition rules for certain sub-sectors.

Continue Reading European Commission Adopts Measures Aimed at Mitigating the Effects of COVID-19 in the Agri-Food Sector

Under Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (“TFEU”), an undertaking may abuse its dominant position by “directly or indirectly imposing unfair purchase or selling prices”.  The UK Court of Appeal recently provided guidance regarding the legal test to determine whether pricing is excessive and unfair.  In March, it dismissed the UK Competition and Markets Authority’s (“CMA”) appeal in the Phenytoin case.
Continue Reading The UK Court of Appeal Clarifies the Legal Test for Excessive Pricing

In two recent webinars covering antitrust, mergers and state aid, DG COMP senior officials shared their views on how DG COMP is operating under the current COVID-19 crisis.

Antitrust: More Flexible Enforcement

Maria Jaspers, head of unit for antitrust case support and policy, gave the following key messages:

  • The absence of legal deadlines creates certain flexibility with regard to time-tables in pending investigations;
  • The crisis may have an influence on pending policy reviews (including the vertical and horizontal block exemption regulations);
  • Several actions have been put into place: these measures include the European Competition Network’s (the “ECN”) joint statement of 23 March 2020, indicating that the Commission (and the competition authorities of the Member States) will not actively intervene against necessary and temporary measures between businesses aimed to avoid a shortage of supply;
  • She pointed to the information on DG COMP’s website titled “Antitrust Rules and Coronavirus” providing dedicated guidance to businesses. Additionally, DG COMP has set up a dedicated mailbox that can be used to seek informal guidance on specific initiatives;
  • She recalled that, on 8 April 2020, the Commission published a “Temporary Framework for assessing antitrust issues related to business cooperation in response to situations of urgency stemming from the current COVID-19 outbreak” (the “Temporary Framework”). Read more on the Temporary Framework in this blogpost. Rainer Becker, head of unit in antitrust for pharma and health services added that DG COMP is vigilantly monitoring the markets to ensure that there are no breaches on the back of the crisis and that DG COMP will continue to progress opened proceedings, including by assessing complaints and market information. However, he indicated that competition rules may in certain circumstances be applied in a more flexible manner (read more on the flexible application of competition law rules here).


Continue Reading Competition Enforcement Under the COVID-19 Crisis: DG COMP Staff’s Views