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Competition: Commission Investigates Pharmaceutical Sector for Anti-Competitive Practices
The European Commission has launched a sector inquiry with a series of on-the-spot competition investigations into pharmaceutical companies. The inquiry covers the introduction of innovative and generic medicines for human consumption in Europe. It will examine whether agreements between pharmaceutical companies (such as patent settlement disputes) may infringe EC Treaty rules on restrictive business practices. It will also examine whether companies have created artificial barriers to entry – perhaps through misuse of patent rights/regulatory processes, or vexatious litigation – and if they have infringed abuse of dominance rules. While a sector inquiry is primarily a way for the Commission to understand a particular sector better, it does indicate that the Commission has competition concerns and can provide a platform for future anti-trust cases against individual companies.
Competition: Fresh Investigations Against Microsoft
The European Commission has initiated two new formal investigations against Microsoft in relation to alleged abuse by the American company of its dominant position. The first investigation concerns a complaint lodged by the European Committee for Interoperable Systems, according to which Microsoft refused to disclose interoperability information across a range of products. The second investigation relates to the tying of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer product to the Windows operating system. In conducting the investigation, the Commission will rely to a significant extent on the Court of First Instance judgment of 2007 on the first Microsoft case.
Competition: Apple to Equalise iTunes Music Downloads Across Europe
The European Commission has closed its investigation into Apple’s iTunes following a promise by Apple to equalise prices for downloads of songs from its iTunes online store in Europe within the next six months. Currently, UK consumers pay around 10 per cent more for downloads than citizens in other European countries. This pricing policy was brought to the Commission’s attention in December 2004 by the UK’s Office of Fair Trading. The British consumer group “Which?” also filed a formal complaint with the Commission suggesting (among other things) that Apple’s refusal to allow cross-border shopping contravened the free movement of goods and services. The Commission’s investigation has also clarified that there is no agreement between Apple and major record companies regarding how the iTunes store is organised in Europe.
Internal Market: Commission Stimulates Mutual Recognition of Venture Capital Structures
In order to improve the financing of small and medium-sized enterprises, the European Commission is proposing measures to boost cross-border investments in venture capital funds. According to the Commission, venture capital funds are facing problems in overcoming different national regulations for cross-border fund raising and investment. By mutual recognition of venture capital structures and implementation of mutually accepted rules on supervision and transparency, the Commission believes that existing barriers to cross-border venture capital could be removed. In addition, a better and more uniform regulatory framework will lower operational costs and risks, thus increasing the flow of venture capital and improving the performance of venture capital markets.
Internal Market: Commission Envisages European Single Market for Online Music, Films and Games
The European Commission has adopted a communication on "Creative Content Online in Europe's Single Market", identifying several actions to be taken at EU level. First, owners of creative content should make it available online. In order to address the concerns of these owners, the Commission intends to instigate "codes of conduct" between access/service providers, rights holders and consumers to ensure adequate protection of copyrighted works. Second, existing licensing mechanisms for creative content should be improved to allow licensing across the European Union. There are currently no multi-territory copyright licences. Finally, technologies that support the management of rights and the fair remuneration of creators in an online environment (Digital Rights Management systems or DRMs), should become transparent and there should be interoperability among the different DRMs. Stakeholders are invited to comment on the communication by 29 February 2008.
State Aid: Commission Launches Investigation into Potential State Aid Involving Aarhus Airport in Denmark
Following a complaint that airport charges set by Aarhus Lufthavn A/S might constitute State aid to Ryanair, the European Commission has opened a formal investigation. The complaint alleges that the operator of Aarhus airport in Denmark granted State aid through discriminatory rebates on airport charges to certain airlines, including, but not limited to, Ryanair. In order to determine whether Aarhus Lufthavn A/S sets its airport charges independently from the public authorities, the Commission has also adopted an injunction requesting further information necessary to carry out a proper assessment of certain allegations made by the complainant.
Mergers: Commission Clears Payment Card Services Joint Venture
The European Commission has approved the proposed creation of a joint venture between First Data Corporation of the United States and Allied Irish Banks. The joint venture will be active in the payment card services market and, more specifically, in merchant acquiring and payment card processing. The parties' activities in merchant acquiring overlap in three EU Member States—Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom—but do not exceed 15 per cent in any of these countries. The parties' combined share of the merchant acquiring sector in the European Economic Area (EEA) would be less than 1 per cent. As regards payment card processing, there are no significant overlaps and there are strong competitors in all Member States in which the parties' activities overlap. The Commission therefore concluded that the operation would not significantly impede effective competition in the EEA, or in any substantial part of it.
Air Transport: General and Business Aviation on Commission’s Agenda
The European Commission has adopted an agenda for general and business aviation in Europe, following the first study into the sector since the creation of the EU internal aviation market. General and business aviation encompasses a wide range of activities, from recreational aviation to the operation of business jets and specialised aerial works. The Commission observed that, unlike the wider airline industry, the general and business aviation sector comprises diverse entities including small businesses and faces special challenges as air traffic in Europe increases. The Commission’s agenda thus proposes action to integrate the sector into EU air transport policy by improving data gathering, screening legislation to ensure proportionality and integrating general and business aviation into air transport capacity optimisation initiatives.
State Aid: Commission Launches Consultation on Funding of Public Service Broadcasting
Contact Philip Bentley
The European Commission has published a consultation paper on the future framework to apply to State funding of public service broadcasting. The consultation is being carried out by the State aid unit of the Competition Directorate-General. Key issues to be considered include the public service remit in the current media environment and control of over-compensation to avoid public broadcasters receiving more funds than required to carry out their functions. Comments on the proposals in the consultation must be submitted to the Commission by 10 March 2008.
Mergers: Commission Approves Steel Trading Joint Venture
The European Commission has cleared the proposed joint venture between Grupo Villacero (Viga-Villacero) of Mexico and Münchmeyer Petersen & Co (MPC) and MAN AG, both of Germany. The three companies plan to combine their international steel trading activities in a newly-created joint-venture, Coutinho & Ferrostaal. The Commission’s examination of the proposed transaction showed that the horizontal impact of the merger would be limited, as the joint venture is not a major player in the markets for international steel trading. Vertical effects are not significant either, as Viga-Villacero, the only parent company active in steel production, focuses its activities on North America.
NEXT WEEK’S EVENTS
Monday 21 January – Friday 25 January 2008
Eurogroup (21 January 2008)
Agriculture and Fisheries Council (21 – 22 January 2008)
Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) (22 January 2008)
COURT OF JUSTICE
Approximation of laws
C-257/06 Roby Profumi
C-532/06 Lianakis and Others
C-294/06 Payir and Others
C-206/06 Essent Netwerk Noord and Others
Free movement of capital
C-415/05 P Al Barakaat International Foundation v Council and Commission
C-520/06 Stringer and Others
Joined Cases C-55/07, C-56/07 Michaeler and Subito GmbH
C-27/07 Banque Fédérative du Crédit Mutuel
C-484/06 Koninklijke Ahold
COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE
T-106/06 Demp v OHMI - Bau How (BAUHOW)
T-88/06 Dorel Juvenile Group v OHMI (SAFETY 1ST)