In context

Potential antitrust risks of public announcements

December 9, 2013
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In context

Price signalling is back on the agenda of cartel enforcers. ACM concluded its mobile telecommunication sector investigation with no evidence of price-fixing, but nevertheless intends to force mobile operators to refrain from making public announcements on planned price increases.  The Commission suspects container-shipping companies of engaging in concerted activity through the making of public announcements on price increases.

Until recently, public statements on future conduct were considered unproblematic. Two developments in The Hague and Brussels make clear that even public statements may result in cartel infringement. It may thus be wise to think twice before making any public announcements on prices.

 

Due to the highly concentrated market structure of the Dutch telecommunications market, ACM found that regular public statements on intended price increases as made by the three major mobile operators without a prior final internal decision could lead to collusion. The mobile operators have therefore offered ACM their commitment to no longer make public announcements on future market prices or other commercial conditions until these are finalised. ACM has stated that it intends to accept the proposed commitments.

 

In Brussels, public announcements have also come to the attention of cartel prosecutors. The European Commission is said to have sent a Statement of Objections to a number of container liner shipping companies concerning their regular public announcements of price increase intentions through press releases on their websites and in the specialised trade press. The last action by the European Commission against this price signalling dates back to 1993. In that case, the European Court of Justice eventually annulled the Commission’s decision that public price announcements breached EU competition rules. It remains to be seen whether the Commission will succeed in this case and find sufficient proof of concerted practice.

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