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Hungary: Market definition

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The decision serves to clarify the meaning of the ‘market’ and the role of the Competition Office regarding products on the market. The Council confirmed that the Competition Ofiice has jurisdiction over the products in the market. However, the Council indicated that a product is only on the market if a wide range of consumers has access to it. A certain group of consumers who possess special knowledge of the product cannot be defined as the market. In this case, a group of industry professionals, namely veterinarians, did not constitute the market and therefore the Competition Office had no jurisdiction.

Ireland: Telecoms liberalisation to be accelerated

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The introduction of full telecoms liberalisation in Ireland on December 1 1998 is a radical move by the Irish government which is clearly intended to encourage as much competition as possible in the market. The expectation is that this will result in a wide range of competing services becoming available to both business and residential users. It is also expected that the quality of telecommunications services on offer to high-tech industry in Ireland will improve rapidly. The acceleration of the liberalisation programme poses a major challenge to the ODTR, which will be responsible for ensuring that the necessary regulatory measures are in put in place within the next few months. These measures will include rules designed to pre-empt the abuse of its dominant position by the incumbent operator as well as rules designed to facilitate the entry of new competitors.

Norway: Competition authority proposes revision of 1993 Act

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The findings of the expert group recommending a new 'incentiveoriented competition analyses' has prompted the Norwegian Competition Authority to propose that work on revision of the Norwegian Competition Act of 1993 begin. The new method is thought to be more effective in identifying areas where there might be insufficient competition and a better tool for assessing competition policy measures. It remains to be seen whether this will be enough to convince the government of the need to initiate revision. There are, however, other reasons for such revision such as bringing the Norwegian Competition law further into harmony with EEC/EEA competition law and enabling the Norwegian Competition Authority to enforce EEC/EEA as well as Norwegian competition law.

Spain: Overlapping jurisdiction of competition authorities and industry-specific regulators

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There is some concern about the need to clarify the jurisdictional line dividing the powers of the industryspecific regulators from those of the national competition authorities.

Taiwan: Deregulation of the petroleum market

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Measures to liberalise the petroleum industry continue in line with Taiwan’s competition policy

United States: A victory for Microsoft

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It remains to be seen what impact the appeals court’s decision will have on the broad new antitrust case that the Justice Department has filed against Microsoft. A key allegation in that case is that Microsoft is illegally ‘bundling’ Internet Explorer with its new Windows 98 platform. Following the appellate court ruling, the Department issued a statement saying that it remains 'confident that the evidence... will demonstrate that Microsoft's conduct has violated federal antitrust law'. However, a former senior Department official was quoted as saying that the appellate court decision 'cuts the legs out from under the... Department on their new case. It is potentially devastating.' The government’s case, which will be heard by the same judge whose injunction the appeals court overturned, is scheduled to go to trial in early September.

Franchising: EU's 'Umbrella Block Exemption'

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The proposed Umbrella Block Exemption unfortunately does not recognise that franchising is uniquely pro-competive, in that it promotes the development of SMEs and permits SMEs to compete at a level at which they otherwise would be unable to do so. While the current franchise block exemption accounts for this fact, the proposal fails to do so and treats franchising as a mere conglomeration of vertical restraints. As a result, the proposed Umbrella Block Exemption may be unduly harsh in its application to franchising. Moreover, franchisors may be reluctant to take advantage of the market share thresholds that are embedded in the proposal because the definition of markets and calculation of market shares are not well developed in the context of franchising in the EU.

United Kingdom: OFT issues draft guidelines

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The guidelines are aimed at ‘business’ rather than lawyers. Because the legislation is based on EU law, many of the guidelines take on the unenviable task of summarising existing EU jurisprudence for a commercial audience. Unsurprisingly, some guidelines are more helpful in this regard than others. The OFT has also published a daunting list of guidelines currently in the pipeline. Not only does the OFT have its work cut out but business will have some reading to do.

Italy: ECJ confirms advice of Autorità on professional associations

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The current rules relating to the professions were drawn up at the beginning of this century and were meant to protect the public from excessive fees and unethical and unprofessional behaviour. In the present social and economic context, these tasks should be left to market forces. The government is currently adopting new rules regulating the professions. This new legislation regulating access to the profession and the scope of activity of professional associations and their regulating bodies will necessarily have to take into account the new economic realities and the need to open up the professions to competition.

Czech Republic: Amendments to competition law

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The changes to the 1991 Act now being prepared will generally bring Czech competition law more closely into line with European law. In particular, the unsatisfactory treatment of de minimis principles in the current legislation should be substantially addressed by abolishing the requirement for clearance from the authorities as a precondition of the effectiveness of agreements falling within their scope.