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Mergers: Commission Clears TomTom's Acquisition of Tele Atlas Without Conditions
The European Commission has approved the proposed acquisition of Tele Atlas by TomTom, both of the Netherlands. Tele Atlas is one of two providers of navigable digital maps, offering complete coverage of Europe and North America. Navigable digital maps are essential inputs for portable navigation devices (PNDs, also known as satellite navigation devices or SatNavs). TomTom, the market leader in Europe, produces navigation software and PNDs. After an in-depth examination launched in November 2007, the Commission found that the merged entity’s ability to restrict access to digital maps for other PND manufacturers would be limited: (i) due to the presence of Navteq, an upstream competitor; and (ii) because the loss of digital map sales would not be compensated by additional sales of PNDs. The Commission also took into account the efficiencies that are likely to be generated by the transaction and concluded that the vertical integration of Tele Atlas into TomTom would not raise competition concerns.
Competition: Investigation into Alleged Maritime Transport Cartel Closed
The European Commission has announced the closure of its investigation concerning the maritime transport of bulk liquids on deep sea routes. The alleged infringements related to a period between 1998 and 2002. At this time, however, tramp vessel services were excluded from the scope of Regulation 4056/86 which established the procedural rules for the Commission to apply Articles 81 and 82 to maritime transport. A key issue, therefore, was whether the services under investigation were tramp vessel services and thus excluded from Regulation 4056/86. Following replies to its Statement of Objections, the Commission concluded that it was possible that the services under investigation were tramp vessel services and decided to close the case.
Consumer Protection: Report on Unfair Practices by Airline Websites
On 8 May 2008 the European Commission published the mid term report on an EU wide enforcement investigation against misleading advertising and unfair practices by websites selling airline tickets. The report shows that there are serious and persistent consumer problems throughout the airline industry as a whole. The investigation focused on misleading pricing, availability of offers and unfair contract terms. Key findings include: (i) one in three websites have required follow up enforcement action for breaches of consumer law; (ii) misleading pricing has emerged as the biggest problem, found in 58 per cent of the websites under investigation; and (iii) the problems exist across the entire airline industry, including both airlines and tour operators. A further report is due after 1 May 2009. The Commission will monitor developments in the airline sector over the coming year and assess the need for further action at that time.
Competition: Microsoft to Appeal EUR 899 Million Fine by European Commission
On 9 May 2008 it was reported that Microsoft would appeal the European Commission's Decision of 27 February 2008 that imposed a penalty fine of EUR 899 million on the company for failure to make interoperability information available on reasonable terms. The fine related to non-compliance with the Commission's March 2004 Decision under which Microsoft was fined EUR 497 million and ordered to: (i) supply complete and accurate interoperability information; and (ii) make that information available on reasonable terms. In July 2006 Microsoft received a penalty fine of EUR 280.5 million from the Commission for failure to comply with the order to provide complete and accurate interoperability information. Microsoft also filed an appeal against the 2006 penalty fine but subsequently withdrew it. The company has already paid the 2008 penalty fine but nonetheless retains the right to appeal it.
Mergers: Commission Opens In-Depth Investigation into Statoil’s Acquisition of Jet Petrol Stations in Scandinavia
The European Commission has opened a second phase in-depth investigation into Statoil Hydro’s proposed acquisition of American owned Jet petrol stations in Scandinavia. The Commission has raised serious doubts as to the compatibility of the merger with the Single Market, particularly in the current climate of rising oil prices. In Sweden and Norway, it is thought that Jet’s exertion of competitive pressure on Statoil may lead to a significant impact on Statoil’s retail prices. While Norway is not part of the European Union, the completion of the entire transaction is subject to approval under the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement which gives jurisdiction to the Commission to review the case. The Commission now has until 18 September 2008 to take a final decision on whether the proposed transaction would significantly impede effective competition in the EEA, or a substantial part of it.
Internal Market: Commission Launches Public Consultation on Medical Devices
The European Commission has launched a public consultation with a view to reducing and simplifying Community laws on medical devices that, according to the Commission, no longer offer a uniform level of protection of public health in the European Union. Three Directives adopted in the 1990s (which have been modified and implemented over the years by six other Directives), constitute the core legal framework on medical devices, which is now being revisited. The Commission is seeking the views of stakeholders on a number of issues such as: the evaluation of emerging technologies; how to make the legislation more straightforward and readily understandable; and whether there are medical devices (such as cosmetic implants) that need to be brought into the regulated area.
Agriculture: ECJ Rules that Member States Enjoy Discretion when Implementing Animal Transport Directive
Contact Philip Bentley
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that Member States enjoy a margin of discretion when implementing the Animal Transport Directive. The Directive harmonises travelling times, rest periods, feeding and watering intervals and space allowances for certain animals. However, Danish swine producers challenged Denmark’s implementation of the Animal Transport Directive on the grounds that the detailed rules on the size of the compartment based on the weight of the animal went further than allowed in the Directive. The ECJ disagreed, finding that, as there was no measurement set by the Animal Transport Directive on the size of the compartment, Denmark enjoyed a margin of discretion in its implementation of these provisions.
NEXT WEEK’S EVENTS
Monday 19 May – Friday 23 May 2008
Agriculture and Fisheries Council (19 – 20 May 2008)
Education, Youth and Culture Council (21 – 22 May 2008)
COURT OF JUSTICE
C-361/06 Feinchemie Schwebda and Bayer CropScience
Area of Freedom, Security and Justice
C-462/06 Laboratoires Glaxosmithkline
Citizenship of the Union
Common foreign and security policy
C-91/05 Commission v Council
C-266/06 P Degussa v Commission and Council
C-165/07 Ecco Sko
Environment and consumers
C-271/07 Commission v Belgium
Free movement of capital
C-194/06 Orange European Smallcap Fund
Social security for migrant workers
C-162/07 Ampliscientifica and Amplifin
Environment and consumers
C-127/07 Arcelor Atlantique and Lorraine and Others
C-251/07 Gävle Kraftvärme
Freedom of establishment
C-240/07 Sony Music Entertainment
Principles of Community law
COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE
T-254/06 Radio Regenbogen Hörfunk in Baden v OHMI (RadioCom)