News

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.

Taiwan: Deregulation of the petroleum market

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

Akzo/ Courtaulds

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The European Commission has decided to clear the acquisition of the British firm Courtaulds plc by Akzo Nobel NV of the Netherlands, subject to commitments by the two firms to divest their interests in aerospace coatings and sealants, thus eliminating any overlap in these markets.

Germany: Revised Competition Act passed

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The two main goals of the reform of the ARC, which has been publicly debated for over two years, were the simplification of its complicated rules and harmonisation with EU competition law. Some of the new rules will certainly make life easier for competition lawyers and regulators as a number of provisions, in particular in respect of merger control, become simpler and clearer. Also, the new domestic turnover threshold (Dm50 million) and revised de minimis exemptions will remove the requirement formally to notify a significant number of mergers (especially foreign mergers) which have no impact on competition in Germany. However, it is doubtful whether the second goal of the reform, ie the harmonisation of German competition law with European standards, can in fact be achieved, as a number of conceptual peculiarities of German competition law, such as the treatment of vertical restraints, the remaining exemption from the cartel prohibition and the comprehensive list of events constituting a merger for merger control purposes remain in place.

Denmark: Flaws in notification timetable

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The transition period under the Competition Act for the notification of agreements entered into before 1998 expired on June 30 1998.

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.

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.

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.

Austria: Leading banks under investigation

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The Commission’s investigation is a totally new experience for Austrian banks. It is the first time they have been subject to such antitrust proceedings. The Commission's move came at a very sensitive time, namely one week before Austria took over the presidency in the European Union.

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.