News

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.

Price-Waterhouse/ Coopers & Lybrand

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The EU Commission has formally cleared the notified merger between Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand following a full investigation centred on the risk of dominance in the market for audit and accounting services to large companies.

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.

Taiwan: Deregulation of the petroleum market

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

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.

Australia: NCC review of Sections 51(2) and (3) of the 1974 Trade Practices Act

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The NCC is currently undertaking a review of Sections 51 (2) and 52 (3) of the Trade Practices Act 1974 (Cth). These sections provide certain exemptions from the competition laws contained in Part IV of the Act. The exemptions will only be retained if the benefits to the community as a whole outweigh the costs, and if the objectives of the Act cannot be achieved more efficiently through other means.

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.

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.

MCI/ WorldCom cleared

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The European Commission recently cleared the US$37 billion merger between MCI Communications and WorldCom, followed a few days later by the US Department of Justice. Both decisions specify that the companies must divest MCI’s Internet assets to an approved buyer, the idea being to ensure the buyer provides effective competition to the merged company. Britain’s Cable and Wireless plc agreed to buy both MCI’s wholesale Internet assets and, more recently, the retail side of the business.

Belgium: Notification following the announcement of a public bid

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It would seem that the notification of a concentration must be filed within one week of (i) the official announcement of the public bid by the Finance and Banking Commission in the case of public bids made in Belgium or (ii) the publication in the press in the case of public bids made abroad. This can lead to differences with regard to the time when the notification must be lodged.