News

Prescription Drugs Antitrust Case

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In a case brought before the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois a number of drug manufactures and drug wholesalers, including Johnson & Johnson, Ciba- Geigy Corp, Sandoz, Forest Laboratories, GD Searle, Cardinal Distribution, Whitmire Distribution Corp, Amerisource, Bindley Western Corp, Bergen Brunswig Corp and McKesson Corp were accused of price fixing of brand name prescriptions.

Australia: Access arrangements for Victorian natural gas transmission systems

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The ACCC recently released its Final Decision on the access arrangements for certain Victorian natural gas transmission systems. The access arrangements were submitted to the ACCC for its approval in accordance with the requirements of the Victorian Third Party Access Code for Natural Gas Pipeline Systems. The ACCC has refused to approve the access arrangements and has listed a number of amendments that are required to be incorporated in the revised access arrangements before granting approval.

Belgium: Electricity market opening goes full speed ahead

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Belgium has decided to opt for a rapid opening of its electricity market, choosing not to use the one-year extension of the implementation period allowed under the Directive to enable it to take into account its specific institutional structure. Indeed, as a result of the federalisation of Belgium, the regional aspects of energy policy (such as local transport and distribution on low voltage electricity grids and rational use of energy sources) are within the jurisdiction of the Regions. However, the federal government retains jurisdiction over matters which require national implementation for technical and economic reasons. It appears that this institutional aspect has not prevented Belgium from implementing an ambitious White Paper.

Denmark: Charging twice the price ‘not abuse

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The Danish Competition Council has reversed its decision on Aalborg Portland A/S and has accepted new criteria by which Danish lorry owners set haulage charges.

European Union: State aid to public broadcasters

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On 20 October, a majority of Member States opposed the Public Television State Aid Guidelines, expressing their preference for a case-by-case approach. The Commission now intends to consult private broadcasters. The Commission, which is apparently split on the issue, is expected to decide before the end of the year whether to adopt the Guidelines. It will be interesting to see if DGIV succeeds in convincing the rest of the Commission to do so. Things will become even more complex with convergence of the telecommunications, media and information technology sectors. The Commission’s 1997 Green Paper on Convergence provides that if state funds were used by public broadcasters to leverage and crosssubsidise their new activities, such practices would be subject to the rules on competition and on the freedom to provide services.

Finland: New merger control regime

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The merger guidelines correspond to a large extent to the relevant EC rules. The first cases have been notified to the FCA.

Germany: TV concentration cleared

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The Budeskartellamt’s decision marks a further step on the road towards concentration in the German free TV market. Although Bertelsmann and Kirch were unsuccessful in their plans to jointly dominate the growing pay-TV market, it is doubtful whether the current structure of the free TV market allows for real competition in any case, especially since the Kirch Group is also a leading provider of movies and TV entertainment programmes in Germany.

Italy: Impact of merger on local market: referral to Autorità

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The new provision should allow competition in local markets to be assessed by national competition authorities, which are best placed to perform this role, thereby sparing the (limited) resources of the Merger Task Force.

New Zealand: Commission allows regional pricing by Telecom New Zealand

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The Commerce Commission has recently upheld Telecom New Zealand’s response to the entry of a competitor into the local telephony market, where lower prices were offered solely in the target area and not elsewhere throughout New Zealand. The Commission concluded that Telecom was only 'meeting competition' and that this did not constitute an abuse of a dominant position or substantially lessen competition. The finding that Telecom was still pricing above average incremental cost (being the appropriate measure of cost submitted by Telecom) was critical in the Commission’s conclusions.

Poland: Uncertainty over time limits for sanctions on failure to notify

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A dispute has existed for some time between the President of the Office for the Protection of Competition and Consumers and the Antimonopoly Court concerning the duration of the time limit within which proceedings regarding fines for failure to notify a proposed merger must be initiated.