News

Belgium: Conditional clearance

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The previous case law of the Council suggested that it had adopted the EU Commission’s approach that undertakings could be accepted in both stage I and stage II decisions. (The amended EU merger regulation, which comes into effect on 1 March 1998, incorporates a new provision confirming that the EU Commission may make stage I (and stage II) clearance decisions conditional on undertakings.)

France: Multi-merger notification form

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The new common form may give rise (perhaps unintentionally) to an increase in pre-notifications and possibly full notification in France. It will also formalise the pre-notification contact with the DGCCRF.

United Kingdom: Common merger application form

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As an attempt to simplify procedures, the move to a uniformly recognised questionnaire should be welcomed. As a practical matter, however, the benefits of the new system are limited. The new form reflects the difficulties involved in achieving effective simplification.

Finland: Customers illegally tied

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In its decision to increase the fine proposed by the Office of Free Competition from Fmk3 million to Fmk5 million in a case relating to abuse of a dominant market position, the Competition Council mentioned as an aggravating factor the fact that the form of abuse concerned was both generally condemned and also prohibited under EC Competition Law.

European Union: More cooperation

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It remains to be seen whether a significant caseload is transferred by the Commission to national authorities following the adoption of this Notice. If this does result in a considerable reallocation of cases, there will inevitably be increased pressure on the resources of national competition authorities. Of particular interest in this context is that the UK Competition Bill is due to implement an EU-style competition regime in the UK in 1998. In conjunction with this, the Bill contains specific provisions authorising the Director General of Fair Trading to obtain a warrant to enter premises by force when undertaking an investigation at the request of the European Commission in connection with an Article 85 or 86 investigation which has been commenced at the EU level.

Japan: New deregulation plan

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The Japanese Cabinet has approved the Second Revised Deregulation Action Plan. Some of the Plan’s measures include the review of a variety of competition law systems; the deletion of a notice requirement for international contracts; and the submission of an omnibus bill to repeal, reform, or review many of the systems which provide exemptions from the Antimonopoly Act.

Merita/Nordbanken

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Finland’s largest bank, Merita, and Sweden’s third largest lender, Nordbanken, announced plans for a SKr80 billion merger on 13 October.

United States: Resale price maintenance

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In Khan, the Supreme Court received briefs supporting the rule of reason approach from a wide variety of sources, including the Justice Department and the Federal Trade Commission, automakers, beer distributors and newspaper publishers. In contrast, a group of approximately 30 state attorneys-general opposed the overruling of the per se rule enunciated in Albrecht. In finding for State Oil, the Court implicitly rejected the argument of the Attorneys General that maximum price fixing 'displaces the free play of market forces'.

Hungary: Budapest water privatised

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The Hungarian Competition Council’s decision essentially permits the participation of powerful foreign companies in existing Hungarian monopoly companies under the new Hungarian merger control rules. The decision clears the way, from a competition law point of view, for further privatisations of Hungarian monopoly companies.

Reed Elsevier/ Wolters Kluwer

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Anglo-Dutch publishing company Reed Elsevier last month agreed a £20 billion merger with Amsterdam-based publishing company Wolters Kluwer.