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The GCR interviews: Competition in the east

Premium - 01 August 1999

Ten years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, the leading economies of Eastern Europe are on the brink of membership in the European Union - a confirmation of the speed with which their economies have adapted to a global free market system from which they were excluded for 50 years. As part of this process, they have also developed competition regimes closely based on the EU model. Three senior regulators from Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic told GCR about the experiences of their countries in the antitrust arena

DoJ sues Schlumberger, Smith International over joint venture

Premium - 01 August 1999

The Justice Department has filed criminal and civil contempt charges against oil service giants Schlumberger Ltd and Smith International Inc for alleged violation of a 1993 consent decree.

Netherlands: End in sight for Dutch book cartel

Premium - 01 August 1999

General conditions laying down fixed prices for foreign books have been judged to be in breach of the Dutch Competition Act. The importers who unsuccessfully defended the fixed prices made reference to an exemption under the old competition regulation in which the fixed prices for domestic books were upheld. The negative decision of the Dutch Competition Authority on fixed prices for foreign books makes clear that fixed prices for domestic books could also be jeopardised in the future, which would mean the end of the socalled Dutch book cartel.

Belgium: Electricity market opening

Premium - 01 August 1999

Although an important step has been taken with the early adoption of the new electricity Law, Belgium still has many issues to resolve before successfully achieving the liberalisation of its high voltage grid. Various Royal implementation Decrees are still required to ensure the proper functioning of the framework set up by the Law (for example, an access fee must be established by the TSO in compliance with a general framework to be adopted by Royal Decree). In addition, the government must organise the transfer to the TSO of the highly complex ownership structure of the current electricity high voltage grid.

New Zealand: Commerce Act amendments threaten franchise agreements

Premium - 01 August 1999

Concerns have been raised that the proposed extension of per se prohibitions in the Commerce Act Amendment Bill may have a negative impact on certain procompetitive and efficiencyenhancing business arrangements. In particular, the changes could effect franchise arrangements and could deter cost-saving cooperation between competitors.

United States: Supreme Court’s opinion in horizontal restraints case muddies the waters

Premium - 01 August 1999

The Supreme Court’s CDA opinion generated immediate controversy in the antitrust bar, not least because of the fact that the vigorous dissent in the case was authored by Justice Stephen Breyer, one of the Court’s recognized antitrust scholars. A former general counsel of the FTC commented on this aspect of the case as follows: 'It is an unusually disappointing opinion. Simply as a matter of judicial craftsmanship, it is not of the quality for which we look to the Court. Any objective observer would have to conclude that Justice Breyer’s opinion was far and away the better of the two, whether measured in terms of analytical power, understanding of antitrust, or quality of writing.'

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.

Italy: Regulation on dominant positions highlights risk of duplication

Premium - 01 August 1999

Special rules in sectors previously controlled by state monopolies were prompted by the EU and have by and large been successfully transposed into Member States’ legislation. Generally, these rules have made a beneficial contribution to the liberalisation of the markets in most EU countries. However, in markets which already operate on the basis of broadly competitive conditions, sectorial market rules may in the long term be counterproductive and risk resulting in the duplication of regulation. In this case, for example, the Law, which was undoubtedly passed with the intention of clarifying the position on the pay-TV market, is probably an unnecessary duplication of antitrust rules and has created a situation of legal uncertainty for market operators in the pay-TV sector.

New antitrust practice for Swidler Berlin

Premium - 01 August 1999

Arnold & Porter partner Paul Denis has joined Washington firm Swidler Berlin Shereff Friedman to build up a new antitrust practice group for the firm.

Australia: New offence of ‘price exploitation’ under Trade Practices Act

Premium - 01 August 1999

Part VB of the Trade Practices Act 1974 came into effect on July 9 1999 and creates the offence of price exploitation in relation to Australia’s New Tax System. The new provisions seek to ensure that the benefits of changes to Australia’s taxation regime under the New Tax System are passed on to consumers. The new price oversight regime reflects the government’s desire to control the risk of businesses profiteering from the New Tax System. Competition alone has not been seen as a sufficient constraint to achieve this end. The ACCC has also been given additional enforcement powers in relation to Part VB.