European and Swedish Antitrust News (Feb 17, 2020)

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The EU Commission has halted the planned regulation of wholesale access to fibre-optic broadband in Sweden, as it doesn’t approve of the suggested geographical market definition of a national market due to local heterogeneity in conditions and competition. In other news, former Commissioner Monti says protectionist member states are to blame for lack of European champions, the SCA has adopted an updated priority policy, the Commission has approved state-aid to EV charging in Romania, and OECD has published an analysis and assessment of the proposals on BEPS

EU Commission halts planned regulation on fibre-optic broadband in Sweden. The Swedish Post and Telecom Authority (PTS) is working to define a specific product market for fibre-optic broadband in Sweden, on which it will regulate local access for wholesale providers similarly to the regulated access to local copper network. However, the Commission doesn’t approve of PTS’ definition of Sweden as one single national geographical market, as there are considerable differences in conditions and competition between different places in Sweden.

Protectionist member states to blame for lack of “European champions” says Monti. Following the blocked merger in the rail sector between Alstom and Siemens, members such as France, Germany, Italy and Poland have urged EU Competition Commissioner Vestager to implement competition law reforms to allow the creation of “European champions” that can rival international competitors from China and the US. But former Commissioner Monti has now responded that the reason for the lack of “European champions” is that protectionist EU member countries have worked against a more effective single market in which such champions would have been created.

Swedish Competition Authority adopt updated policy for case priority. In order to chose which matters to investigate, the SCA has adopted an updated priority policy, in which the factors are if the problem causes harm to competition and consumers, if conditions exist to investigate and remedy the issue effectively under the competition rules, if a guiding precedent is of importance and if the Swedish Competition Authority is best suited to intervene. The new policy stresses that harm to competition and consumers is highest importance to the SCA’s focus and the SCA particularly prioritize excluding abuse of dominance. Consideration of whether conditions exist to effectively investigate and remedy the matter is also of higher importance compared to older priority policies.

Commission approves Romanian State Aid for EV charging stations. The Commission has found that a €53 M state aid program to stimulate investments into recharging stations for electric motor vehicles in Romania can be approved under the Article 107(3)(c) exception, which allows state aid for development of a common interest when it doesn’t unduly distort competition.

OECD release economic analysis and impact assessment on BEPS. The International collaboration to end tax avoidance strategies that exploit gaps and mismatches in tax, “domestic tax base erosion and profit shifting (BEPS)”, has released an analysis and assessment of the proposals under the OECD/G20 Inclusive Framework. It estimates global net increase in taxes of up to 4% of global CIT revenues or USD 100 billion annually, and the direct effect on investment costs is expected to be small in most countries.

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