Competition Law Update | January 2017


Written on 18 January 2017

The final month of 2016 saw competition authorities in the EU pursuing unfair pricing practices and information exchanges. In the UK, the CMA imposed a record fine in the pharmaceutical sector for charging excessive and unfair pricing and also fined five UK modelling agencies for price collusion. This comes just weeks after fines were imposed on 37 on modelling agencies in France (read our article here). Meanwhile, the Italian Antitrust Authority has reasserted its determination in pursuing information exchange between competitors (read more here).

It is not just national competition authorities that have been actively enforcing competition law. The CJEU has considered jurisdiction in relation to retailers operating in multiple countries and the status of a guarantee scheme guaranteed by the Belgian government (read more here).

Away from enforcement, the European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, has emphasised the need for investment in telecoms and competition’s fundamental role in encouraging this (read more here).

Finally, this month has seen the deadline for implementation of the EU Damages Directive by each Member State. We consider the progress that some key countries have made in implementation here.

Contact our international team to discuss the issues relevant to your business.

The European regime for follow-on damages claims should now be in full force – but has it been introduced on time?

The EU Damages Directive aims to give all EU citizens and companies comparable rights to bring follow-on damages claims when they have suffered loss because of anti-competitive conduct such as a cartel. The Directive was due to have been implemented by each Member State by 27 December 2016. We look at how key countries are doing in meeting the deadline here.

Vestager speech on competition and investment in telecoms

On 28 November 2016, the European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, recognised the importance of encouraging investment in telecoms networks, and the fundamental role of competition in doing this. We explore the speech in more detail here.

UK: record fine imposed on Pfizer for excessive pricing

On 7 December 2016, the CMA imposed a record fine of £84.2 million on pharmaceutical manufacturer Pfizer, and a £5.2 million fine on distributor Flynn Pharma, after finding that each broke competition law by charging excessive and unfair prices in the UK for an anti-epilepsy drug. The CMA’s focus is clear, as this fine comes at a time when four other investigations into the pharmaceutical sector are ongoing and other fines have been imposed. Marc Shrimpling explores the decision and its implications here.

UK: top UK modelling agencies fined £1.5 million for colluding on prices

On 16 December 2016, the CMA announced that it had fined five UK modelling agencies a combined total of £1.5 million for colluding on prices. This comes just weeks after the French Competition Authority fined 37 modelling agencies, representing almost the entire French market, as well as their main professional union, for anti-competitive practices regarding price schedules of models in France. We explore the CMA’s recent fine and implications for businesses here.

France: French courts can and may enforce product takedowns against unauthorised online resellers operating abroad

On 21 December 2016, the CJEU ruled that French courts may have jurisdiction to hear an action, based on French law, to establish liability for the infringement of the prohibition on resale outside a selective distribution network for unauthorised sales of a retailer operating from abroad. This strengthens the efficiency of the French law, and it remains to be seen if this could be extended to other EU member states. Read more about the decision and its implications here.

Italy: Italian Antitrust Authority investigates possible price signalling in the insurance sector

According to the Italian Antitrust Authority, public announcements relating to pricing strategies can be considered the expression of coordination between competitors with the object and/or effect of distorting competition. This finding comes as part of an investigation against some of the main firms active in the provision of third party motor insurance in Italy. Once again, the Authority has proven its determination in pursuing information exchanges between competitors. We explore the case and its wider implications here.

Belgium: guarantee established by Belgian Government labelled incompatible with EU law

The CJEU has issued a preliminary ruling which classifies a guarantee scheme granted by the Belgian Government to three financial cooperatives as state aid. This means the European Commission had been correct to conclude that the scheme was unlawfully put into effect by the Belgian Government. Yves Stans explores the decision and its implications here.

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*This article is current as of the date of its publication and does not necessarily reflect the present state of the law or relevant regulation.