News

Spain: Amendments to Spanish competition law too cautious

Premium 01 August 1999

This year is the 10th anniversary of Spain’s Competition Law. The proposed reforms are an important step in the right direction, but perhaps not far-reaching enough. The institutional changes which had been considered in the early stages of the legislative process have not been reflected in the Draft Bill. These changes would have given more independence to the Spanish competition authorities. It also remains to be seen whether the Spanish competition authorities will be given the required resources and funds to implement the new law properly.

Coca-Cola/ Cadbury Schweppes deal scaled back

Premium 01 August 1999

Coca-Cola announced at the end of May that due to regulatory obstacles it would be scaling back plans to buy the international drinks business of Cadbury Schweppes, including well-known brands such as Schweppes Tonic and Dr Pepper, in all EU countries except the UK, Ireland and Greece.

Ireland: Electricity liberalisation begins

Premium 01 August 1999

The electricity market in Ireland is beginning to change. The changes are driven by the need to comply with the requirements of Directive 96/92/EC. While some of the legislation required to implement this change has already been introduced, a number of important issues remain to be resolved. These include: ownership of the national grid, the establishment of an independent manager of the national grid and the charges to be paid for use of the national grid. One of the Electricity Commission’s express obligations under the legislation is to have regard to the need to promote competition. The Competition Authority has a general jurisdiction to apply Irish competition law in all sectors of the economy. There is therefore a risk that the two agencies will take conflicting actions in relation to a given competition problem in the electricity sector. Such conflicts have already arisen in relation to actions taken by the Competition Authority and the Director of Telecommunications Regulation in the telecoms sector.

Canada: First Canadian antitrust class action certification

Premium 01 August 1999

In Chadha v Bayer Inc, a Canadian court has certified the first ever class action on behalf of indirect purchasers.

Israel: Introduction of block exemptions and consent decree

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The introduction of new criteria for exemptions and the concept of ‘consent decree’ is an important development in Israeli competition law.

EU: Reform of vertical restraints under way

Premium 01 August 1999

The vertical restraints reform should be placed in the context of the White Paper on competition enforcement reform (see Global Competition Review June/July 1999, page 39). The White Paper proposes a radical review of the existing enforcement system under Regulation 17, switching from ex ante to ex post decentralised enforcement. In fact, once the White Paper proposals enter into force (not envisaged to be before 2003), the significance of the vertical restraints reform (which is expected to take place during the year 2000) will be reduced. Indeed, on the basis of the current White Paper proposals, notifications under Articles 81 and 82 EC will no longer be possible. Accordingly, the relevance of the block exemption and guidelines will be limited to an interpretative role in clarifying the Commission’s policy.

Czech Republic: Proposed amendments to Competition Act

Premium 01 August 1999

If the proposed amendments to the current anti-competition legislation are approved, there will be more situations in which competing companies must obtain clearance before merging. There will be a stricter definition of dominant market position, based on the principle of market strength. Under the new rules, market share will remain important, but will not be the sole criteria for establishing dominant position.

Franchising: Federal Trade Commission Act may not apply extraterritorially

Premium 01 August 1999

This decision has ominous implications for the FTC and its jurisdiction to enforce the entire FTC Act, not just the FTC Franchising Rule. For this reason, and because of the Court’s acknowledgement that its Nieman decision conflicts with an earlier 7th Circuit decision (which had authorised extraterritorial exercise of the FTC’s jurisdiction), we may not have heard the last of this case or the issue of the FTC Act’s extraterritorial reach.

Sweden: New de minimis notice from the Competition Authority

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The new notice on agreements of minor importance broadly follows the European Commission’s de minimis notice.

Switzerland: ‘Essential facilities’ doctrine lurks in Swiss Antitrust Law

Premium 01 August 1999

The Swiss Antitrust Commission has referred to the ‘essential facilities’ doctrine in two ongoing investigations, one in the electricity market and one (more recently) in the telecommunications industry. The latter investigation has been triggered by an interim measure obliging the largest Swiss cable network provider to grant access to a Swiss pay-TV broadcaster to enable it to switch from analog to digital TV technology.