QuickLinks - Competition
QuickLinks - Competition
Issue no. 381 - 8 December 2007
- EU - Commission advocates more competition in airline ticket distribution
The European Commission has adopted a proposal to simplify and modernise the two-decade-old rules for computerised reservation systems (CRS). These systems are used by travel agents to book airline tickets on behalf of their customers. The revised rules will allow CRSs and subscribing travel agents to expand their offer and better compete in the airline distribution market. See Q&A on the revised rules for computerised airline ticket reservation systems.
- EU - Commission approves proposed acquisition of Tele2 Italy and Tele2 Spain by Vodafone
The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of the Spanish and Italian subsidiaries of the Swedish telecommunications group Tele2 AB by the UK-based telecommunications group Vodafone. The Commission concluded that the transaction would not significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area (EEA) or any substantial part of it.
- EU - Commission fines professional videotape producers over 74 million for price fixing cartel
The European Commission has imposed a total of 74 790 000 fines on Sony, Fuji and Maxell for fixing prices for professional videotapes sold to customers in Europe, in violation of the EC Treaty?s ban on cartels and restrictive business practices (Article 81). Between 1999 and 2002, Sony, Fuji and Maxell managed to raise or otherwise control prices through a series of regular meetings and other illicit contacts. Sony's fine has been increased by 30% for obstructing the Commission's investigation during on-site inspections at its premises. Fuji's and Maxell's fines are reduced by 40% and 20% respectively because they co-operated with the investigation. For the calculation of the fines, the Commission applied for the first time its new 2006 Guidelines. Labels: Competition.htm">Competition
- EU - Commission opens in-depth investigation into Tom Tom's proposed acquisition of Tele Atlas
The European Commission has opened a detailed investigation under the EU merger regulation into TomTom's proposed acquisition of Tele Atlas, both of The Netherlands. TomTom produces portable navigation devices (PNDs) and Tele Atlas is one of two producers of navigable digital maps, a crucial input for PND manufacturers.
- EU - Microsoft finally yields to EU order
Microsoft ended its long battle with European regulators by agreeing to comply with key elements of the European Commission's 2004 antitrust order. Under the agreement, Microsoft will make three "substantial" changes in the way it supplies interoperability information to competitors seeking to have their work-group server software work with Microsoft's operating system. The company will provide open-source software developers access to and use of its interoperability information, according to the Commission.
- EU will investigate Google deal
European Union regulators have launched an in-depth investigation into Google's $3.1bn takeover of online advertising firm DoubleClick. The EU Commission said its initial probe had shown the deal would raise competition concerns. It has set itself a deadline of 2 April 2008 to reach a decision.
Issue no. 380 - 30 September 2007
- EU - Microsoft loses anti-trust appeal
Microsoft has lost its appeal against a record 497m euro fine imposed by the European Commission in a long-running competition dispute. The European Court of First Instance upheld the ruling that Microsoft had abused its dominant market position.
- EU asks the customers' opinion on the DoubleClick-Google affair
As Google plans to buy out U.S. web advertising supplier DoubleClick, the European Commission has already sent questionnaires to Google customers on the matter, even before Google has actually filed to the European Union's top antitrust regulator for the purchase. This is considered a rather unusual step as although the European Commission has frequently sent questionnaires to customers, it has done so once a deal has been formally filed and not before.
- US - Google defends DoubleClick bid
Google has stepped up its battle to acquire advertising group DoubleClick, as the company's chief legal officer appeared before the US Congress. David Drummond told the Senate hearing that the proposed $3.1bn deal would be beneficial to the public and US enterprise. A subcommittee of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary will decide if the merger risks infringing on privacy and antitrust rules. The attack on Google's planned purchase has been led by key rival Microsoft. The software giant's general counsel, Brad Smith, told the hearing that acquiring DoubleClick would make Google, "the overwhelmingly dominant pipeline for all forms of online advertising."
Issue no. 378 - 5 August 2007
- EU - Commission approves proposed joint venture between SES Astra and Eutelsat
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the creation of a joint venture between SES Astra of Luxembourg and Eutelsat of France for the provision of satellite infrastructure for broadcasting mobile TV as well as voice and data communication services to mobile devices. The Commission concluded that the transaction would not significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area (EEA) or any substantial part of it.
- EU - Commission authorises acquisition of Télé 2 France by SFR
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the purchase of the fixed telephony and Internet access businesses of Télé 2 France by the French mobile telephony operator SFR. When it was originally notified, the planned operation raised serious competition concerns in pay-TV markets in France and the Commission launched an in-depth investigation. These concerns have been addressed by commitments guaranteeing DSL operators equal treatment with the new entity as regards access to television content owned by the Vivendi group, of which SFR forms part. In the light of these commitments, the Commission has now concluded that the merger will not significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area (EEA) or any substantial part of it.
- EU - Commission confirms sending of Statement of Objections to Intel
The European Commission has sent a Statement of Objections (SO) to Intel on 26th July 2007. The SO outlines the Commission's preliminary view that Intel has infringed the EC Treaty rules on abuse of a dominant position (Article 82) with the aim of excluding its main rival, AMD, from the x86 Computer Processing Units (CPU) market;
- EU - Commission ends Court proceedings against Hungary after amendment of Media Act
The European Commission has withdrawn its pending case at the Court of Justice against Hungary after the latter abolished a provision of its Media Act that prevented cable operators from providing cable TV services to more than one third of the Hungarian population. The provision had limited competition on the markets for cable TV and broadband internet services in Hungary: such a lack of competition typically leads to higher prices, less innovation and slower take-up of these services. The relevant provision of the Hungarian Media Act prevented the consolidation of the cable networks, in breach of the Commission Directive on electronic communications, but this has now been abolished.
- EU - EC issues charges against Intel
The European Commission issued formal charges against Intel for allegedly using illegal tactics against smaller rival Advanced Micro Devices. The Commission has spent years investigating Intel's tactics to determine whether it acted unfairly to preserve its dominance over AMD.
Issue no. 377 - 5 July 2007
- EU - Commission fines Telefónica over 151 million
The European Commission has fined the Spanish incumbent telecoms operator Telefónica 151 875 000 for a very serious abuse of its dominant position in the Spanish broadband market. Telefónica imposed unfair prices in the form of a margin squeeze between the wholesale prices it charged to competitors and the retail prices it charged to its own customers. In so doing, Telefónica weakened its competitors, making their continued presence and growth difficult: competitors were forced to make losses if they wanted to match Telefónica's retail prices. With high wholesale costs and weakened retail competition on the broadband market, Spanish consumers pay 20% more than the EU-15 average for broadband access. The Spanish broadband penetration rate is 20% below EU-15 average, and its growth is nearly 30% below that of the EU-15. see also frequently asked questions and Press conference on Telefónica decision introductory remarks Neelie Kroes European Commissioner for Competition Policy, Press conference, Brussels, 4th July 2007.
- EU - State aid: Commission maintains current rules for film and TV production
The European Commission has adopted a Communication extending until 31st December 2009 at the latest the application of the current rules on state aid to cinematographic and other audiovisual works. This Cinema Communication extends the rules laid down in the previous Communications of 2001 and 2004. This continuity should further encourage Europe's audiovisual industry by maintaining the current conditions and thereby helping the industry to face future challenges in a highly competitive market.
Issue no. 376 - 10 June 2007
Issue no. 375 - 9 May 2007
- EU - European Commission acts against iTunes
The European Commission can confirm that it has sent a Statement of Objections to major record companies and Apple in relation to agreements between each record company and Apple that restrict music sales: consumers can only buy music from the iTunes' on-line store in their country of residence. Consumers are thus restricted in their choice of where to buy music, and consequently what music is available, and at what price. See also EU price probe into Apple iTunes (BBC).
- EU - Microsoft asks EC for more details on licensing fees
The software giant, in response to the Commission's statement of objections over pricing for licensing its Work Group Server protocol technology, said it will waive its right to a hearing on the matter and continue discussions with the antitrust agency. The issue centers on whether Microsoft is providing its Windows Server protocol technology under "reasonable and nondiscriminatory" terms.
- EU - Q&A: iTunes price probe
The European Commission is investigating Apple and some of the world's top record companies over how they sell music through the firm's online iTunes store in Europe. Brussels says commercial agreements between the companies limit consumer choice and violate EU laws governing the single market. Brussels is not quibbling about iTunes' dominance of the market but, rather, how it goes about selling its songs to music lovers across Europe. Consumers can currently only download songs from the iTunes website in their own country, preventing someone in Belgium buying tracks from the British version of the site.
Issue no. 373 - 11 March 2007
- EU - Kroes sounds bugle for next Microsoft battle
The Commission's anti-trust chief has sent another objection to Microsoft, questioning the software giant's pricing policy for granting access to information on its server protocols.
- US - Microsoft not meeting deadlines in antitrust settlement
Federal antitrust officials have expressed growing concern that Microsoft is falling behind on deadlines to revise technical documentation to licensees. As part of the 2002 consent decree that came out of an antitrust settlement, Microsoft is required to disclose server protocols to rivals as a means to allow interoperability between the parties' products.
Issue no. 372 - 25 February 2007
- EU - Commission clears proposed acquisition of ProSiebenSat.1 by KKR and Permira
The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of ProSiebenSat.1, the second largest German TV broadcasting group. by equity funds Permira of the Channel Islands and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR) of the US.
- EU - Commission welcomes judgment of the Court of First Instance in French broadband case
The European Commission welcomes the 30th January judgment by the Court of First Instance (Case T-340/03) dismissing in its entirety the appeal by France Télécom SA, formerly Wanadoo Interactive SA, in respect of the Commission's 2003 decision concerning predatory pricing and confirming the 10.35 million fine imposed by the Commission.
- UK - BBC urged to resist website ads
A group representing UK media companies has called on the BBC Trust not to allow adverts to be published on its international websites. The British Internet Publishers Alliance (BIPA) said the plan would hit revenue its members could make online.
Issue no. 371 - 28 January 2007
- EU - Commission opens in-depth investigation into Universal's take over of BMG's music business
The European Commission has decided to open a full investigation under the EU Merger Regulation into the proposed acquisition of the music publishing business of Germany's Bertelsmann Music Group (BMG) by Universal, a US-subsidiary of the French company Vivendi. The Commission's initial market investigation indicates that the proposed merger would raise serious doubts as regards adverse effects on competition in the already concentrated music publishing market.
- UK - Ofcom warns on BBC download plans
The BBC's plans to offer all its TV and radio shows on-demand via the internet and cable TV have been criticised by the broadcasting watchdog Ofcom. Ofcom said that certain aspects of the BBC's on-demand service, which is due to start later this year, could have a 'negative effect' on commercial rivals. It added that while the BBC's plans would boost interest in rival services, it would likely limit their investment.
Issue no. 370 - 3 December 2006
Issue no. 369 - 5 November 2006
- EU - Ce que Microsoft a modifié dans la version européenne de Vista
Microsoft a procédé à quelques modifications pour se conformer aux exigences de Bruxelles. Internet Explorer 7 pourra ainsi être paramétré avec n'importe quel moteur de recherche et le centre dé sécurité sera en partie désactivé.
- EU - Details trickle out about EC Vista probe
A senior Microsoft executive has revealed details of the European Commission's anti-competition probe into the upcoming Windows Vista operating system. He said that regulators noted four aspects of the Windows update as raising potential anti-competition concerns. Microsoft and the EC have been in protracted discussions regarding Vista since March, over regulators' concerns that parts of Vista may violate anti-competition laws.
Issue no. 368 - 15 October 2006
- EU - Commission renders commitments by music publishers and collecting societies legally binding
The European Commission has made legally binding under EC Treaty competition rules the commitments given by the five major music publishers (BMG, EMI, Sony, Universal and Warner) and thirteen European collecting societies (AEPI, AustroMechana, GEMA, MCPS, MCPSI, NCB, SABAM, SDRM, SGAE, SIAE, SPA, STEMRA, SUISA), the signatories of the Cannes Extension Agreement, regarding Central Licensing Agreements. The commitments ensure that record producers can continue to receive rebates from collecting societies on royalties paid in the context of Central Licensing Agreements. These rebates are currently the only form of price competition among collecting societies.
- EU - Intel expected to face Commission antitrust action
European competition officials are close to presenting their antitrust case against Intel. The five year investigation of Intel centres on its behaviour in a market that it dominates. The company has 80% of the world's micro chip market and the Commission is investigating whether or not it abused that power.
- EU - Microsoft changes Vista over antitrust concerns
Microsoft said it has made changes to its Windows Vista operating system in response to concerns raised by antitrust officials in Europe and Korea. Microsoft officials said they now feel comfortable that they have addressed the three main concerns European Commission regulators raised last month. see also Commission statement on Microsoft Vista (RAPID). The European Commission has been informed of Microsoft's intention to deliver its Vista operating system worldwide, with no delay in Europe. The Commission has not given a 'green light' to Microsoft to deliver Vista because, as the Commission has consistently stated, Microsoft must shoulder its own responsibilities to ensure that Vista is fully compliant with EC Treaty competition rules and in particular with the principles laid down in the March 2004 Commission anti-trust decision concerning Microsoft. In line with the Commission's obligations under the EC Treaty and its practice, the Commission will closely monitor the effects of Vista in the market and, in particular, examine any complaints concerning Vista on their own merits.
- EU - Music licensing for the 21st century
Speech by Charlie McCreevy, European Commissioner for Internal Market and Services, Music Publishers' Congress Brussels, 3 October 2006.
- US Government lobbied EU Commissioner on Microsoft's behalf
The US Government directly lobbied the EU's Competition Commissioner in an attempt to influence her on Microsoft's behalf. Commissioner Neelie Kroes has said that the intervention was not welcome and that that behaviour is "not done". Kroes went ahead and fined Microsoft ?280.5 million in July.
Issue no. 367 - 23 September 2006
- EU - Microsoft accused over Vista row
European Union Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes has accused Microsoft of orchestrating a "co-ordinated campaign" to discredit her. Ms Kroes' comments have come as her department and the US software giant continue to clash over Microsoft's forthcoming Vista operating system.
Issue no. 365 - 15 August 2006
- EU - collective management rights in the online world
Intellectual property and competition law: collective management rights in the online world. Speech by Torben Toft, Conrad Hotel, Brussels, 8 June 2006.
- EU - Commission challenges funding of Flemish public service broadcaster
The European Commission has requested clarifications from Belgium concerning the public service mission and the financing of VRT, the public service broadcaster in the Flemish community of Belgium. Having examined allegations from several complainants, the Commission's preliminary view is that the current financing system is no longer in line with EC Treaty state aid rules requiring Member States not to grant subsidies liable to distort competition (Article 87).
- EU - Commission imposes penalty payment of 280.5 million on Microsoft
The European Commission has imposed a penalty payment of 280.5 million on Microsoft for its continued non-compliance with some of its obligations under the Commission's March 2004 Decision. That Decision found that Microsoft had abused its dominant position under Article 82 EC, and required Microsoft to disclose complete and accurate interface documentation which would allow non-Microsoft work group servers to achieve full interoperability with Windows PCs and servers. The Decision, adopted under Article 24(2) of Regulation 1/2003, finds that Microsoft has not fulfilled this obligation. Should Microsoft continue to fail to comply, the Decision also increases the amount of the daily penalty payment to which Microsoft could be subject to 3 million per day. Introductory remarks by Neelie Kroes, European Commissioner for Competition Policy, Press conference on imposing penalty payments on Microsoft. Brussels, 12th July 2006. The European Commission's Microsoft Case (Europa)The web-pages referred to provide information about the European Commission's March 2004 Microsoft Decision, the Court of First Instance proceedings relating to that Decision, and its ongoing implementation.
- EU - Commission refers France to Court of Justice for failure to recover illegal state aid
The European Commission has decided to refer France to the Court of Justice under EC Treaty state aid rules for failing to comply with a Commission decision of 2 August 2004 concerning France Télécom. This decision declared the preferential treatment of France Télécom under the French business tax regime incompatible with the Single Market and ordered France to recover the aid already granted from the beneficiary. However, the French authorities have not yet taken any concrete, effective steps to recover the aid.
- EU - Sony BMG ruling rocks European Commission
In overturning the Commission's decision to allow the Sony and BMG record labels merger in 2004 to merge, the Court of First instance has dealt a severe blow to the Commission in its role as Europe's competition regulator.
- EU - Sports Rights in a converging media technology environment
EC Competition Law aspects: Sports Rights in a converging media technology environment, Speech by Torben Toft, London, Broadcasting & EC Competition Law, 30 March 2006.
Issue no. 363 - 25 June 2006
- EU - Commission orders Dutch public service broadcaster to pay back excess funding
The European Commission has ordered the Dutch authorities to recover 76.3 million plus interest from NOS, the umbrella organisation of public broadcasters in the Netherlands, following an investigation under EC Treaty state aid rules into ad hoc payments from the Dutch State to the public broadcasters between 1994 and 2005. The investigation has shown that the payments went beyond the financial needs of broadcasters for public service purposes and resulted in NOS building up financial reserves.
Issue no. 359 - 9 May 2006
- EU - Commission clears acquisition of Austrian mobile phone operator by T-Mobile
The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of the Austrian mobile phone operator tele.ring by T-Mobile Austria, subject to conditions and obligations. The Commission's in-depth investigation showed that the concentration, as initially notified, would have led to a substantial impediment of effective competition on the Austrian market for the provision of mobile telephony services to final consumers. However, in the light of the commitment by the merging parties to divest UMTS frequencies and mobile telephony sites of tele.ring to operators with lower market shares than T-Mobile Austria, the Commission has now concluded that the proposed transaction would not significantly impede effective competition in the European Economic Area (EEA) or a significant part of it.
Issue no. 358 - 21 April 2006
- US - New blow for Microsoft in EU row
Microsoft has lost the latest round of its battle against sanctions in Europe. A US judge quashed the firm's demands that rival Novell hand over documents it presented to the European Commission for use in an anti-trust case. The judge in the case said he had turned down the request as Microsoft was trying to 'circumvent and undermine' European law. Microsoft is fighting a European Union (EU) ruling that could trigger fines of up to 2m euros ($2.4m; £1.4m) a day.
Issue no. 357 - 26 March 2006
- EU - Commission closes inquiry into financing of Portuguese public broadcaster
Following commitments to change the funding system of the Portuguese public service broadcaster RTP, the European Commission has closed the existing procedure under EC Treaty state aid rules (Article 88(1)). Portugal has agreed to implement measures to increase transparency and proportionality in its funding system, which will prevent cross-subsidies for commercial activities.
- EU - Commission approves French cinema and audiovisual support mechanisms
The Commission has approved the collection of French cinema and audiovisual support mechanisms on the basis of the EC State aid rules. The Commission considered that almost all of the numerous mechanisms notified constituted State aid. However, the Commission concluded that it can approve them on the basis that most of them encourage cultural development without affecting exchanges between Member States to an extent contrary to the common interest.
- EU - Microsoft accuses Brussels of collusion
Microsoft was warned that its behaviour was leading inexorably towards large fines from the European Commission after the US software giant accused the competition body of colluding with the company's rivals. Neelie Kroes, European Union competition commissioner, said: "If we pursue the line we are following now, there will be fines and they won't be small fines." The Commission was accused by Microsoft of "secret collaboration" with the group's rivals and violating its rights of defence.
- EU - More competition on UK football media rights
The Commission has adopted a decision according to which the English Premier League football clubs can sell their media rights together. The decision, adopted on 22 March 2006, concerns TV, mobile phone and internet and stipulates that the live TV rights will be sold in six packages, no single buyer being able to buy more than five. An independent trustee will ensure that the rights are sold in an open and competitive bidding process.
- EU - Role of the Monitoring Trustee in the Microsoft case
The European Commission has published its Decision defining the role of the Trustee in the Microsoft case, the curriculum vitae of the Monitoring Trustee, as well as the curricula vitae of his advisors. The Trustee Decision is the formal document which sets the parameters for the Trustee's work in monitoring Microsoft's compliance with the March 2004 Decision (see IP/04/382) in order to advise the Commission on that compliance.
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