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Archive for November 20th, 2012

Ménage à trois: The General Court’s judgment in Case T-169/08 PPC v Commission

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A few posts ago we decided to follow the Commission’s example and launched a reform aimed at working less.  Our plan is to do so by opening this blog to comments on recent Judgments on the part of three experts: one writes a “standard post” on the Judgment, and two others comment on it. As anticipated, our first ménage à trois deals with the Greek Lignite case (concerning the inteface between Arts. 106 and 102 TFUE). Our three inaugural guests are three good friends of this blog: two of them (Marixenia Davilla -Shearman&Sterling- and Makis Komninos -White&Case- and were actually involved in the case (on the winning side) and the third (José Luis Buendía -Garrigues-) is the author of the bible on Article 106 (of which a new edition is on the pipeline). Marixenia has written an excellent post to get the ball rolling. Comments will follow soon. Enjoy! 


First things first…Many thanks to Chillin’ Competition for ambushing  giving me the opportunity to participate in my first ever platonic ménage a trois. This is so exciting that I am contemplating making an addendum to my curriculum. I am certain it will boost my chances of being promoted before I turn 50.

Let’s move on to the juicy stuff now, namely, the PPC judgment rendered by the General Court on 20 September 2012. Having worked on this case whilst at Howrey (RIP), I am particularly pleased to see PPC winning a very difficult battle.

This case concerns Article 106 TFEU, a provision that cannot be implemented on its own, but must be combined with another EU law provision, in this case Article 102 TFEU. Article 106 can also be described as a sort of transgender hybrid enforcement tool, existing in limbo somewhere between antitrust and state aid law, without really being any of the two. Commission decisions under Articles 106/102 are addressed to member states, but are not state aid decisions. They make findings regarding actual or potential abuse of dominance, yet the level of analysis required in such cases to prove an infringement is notably lower compared to that required for establishing a “pure” abuse of dominance under Article 102. Pursuant to Article 106(1)/102 case law, the Commission is not required to show that the company in question abused its dominance, but that it can be led to committing an abuse merely by exercising the state measure in question. In other words, Article 106 is not a bird, is not a plane, but does (still) fly, and has been a pretty handy weapon for the Commission, particularly in cases concerning network industries.

But the fun does not end there. The case law developed in relation to Articles 106(1)/102 predominantly comprises preliminary rulings by the Court of Justice, which are neither consistent with each other, nor that easy to categorise. That said, a broad categorisation is possible, and in PPC’s case the Commission relied upon the so-called “inequality of opportunity” case law (Raso and Others, France v Commission, GB-Inno-BM, and Connect Austria). According to the Commission, based on that case law, there is no need to identify a specific type of abuse; suffice to show that the state measure in question leads to an inequality of opportunity between market operators. Haha, piece of cake! Prove that, dear Commission official, and you’re done, you can close the shop and go on holiday!

This interpretation is somewhat unsatisfactory. In its appeal against the contested decision of March 2008 PPC invited the General Court to clarify this issue, and the latter bravely took on that challenge.

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Written by Alfonso Lamadrid

20 November 2012 at 1:35 pm

Posted in Case-Law

Marketing domination

with 2 comments

In a previous post we explained why, in our view, the criticism that DG Comp only targets U.S. companies does not make much sense (see here) .

But now we have discovered -with the help of the above pic (thanks to Gil Ohana for sending it to us!)- that antitrust enforcement concerning U.S. corporations may be based on a big misunderstanding rooted on different terminology.  Whereas in Europe we’re suspicious of any reference to dominance , in the States this term does not have the same connotations. By bragging about their dominance on the market (like S&M does in the photo), some firms might be unvoluntarily attracting antitrust scrutiny. The bottomline: there are no U.S. dominant firms, only marketing tricks.

[Yes, I know, this “theory” doesn’t pass the laugh test, but the pic is good anyway].

A piece of important advice: don’t make the same mistake I made, and don’t google SM domination (at least while at the office…). Really, don’t!

Written by Alfonso Lamadrid

20 November 2012 at 1:16 pm

Posted in Jokes