News

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.

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.

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.

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.

Taiwan: Deregulation of the petroleum market

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.