20 December 2010

Allegations of collective dominance abuse dropped in France

The French Competition Authority has closed its investigation into the market for LPG bottles without finding any competition law infringement. LPG companies were accused of having abused of their collective dominant position by engaging in refusal to supply and in other conduct aimed at keeping new entrants out of the market. RBB prepared an expert report showing that the companies did not have a position of collective dominance, as the relevant necessary conditions (those set out by the CFI in Airtours) were not met.  Moreover, RBB’s assessment also showed that the companies had not committed any abuse, as the conduct was not capable of restricting competition. RBB partner Francesco Rosati also gave oral  evidence at the Hearing.  The Authority accepted that the Airtours criteria constitute the correct test for assessing collective dominance, and concluded that the companies did not have a collective dominant position because they were constrained by competition from strong new entrants, i.e. the supermarkets’ private labels. As a consequence, it closed the case without finding any infringement. Separate allegations about price fixing were also dropped.RBB advised Shell and its LPG subsidiary Butagaz, alongside lawyers Clifford Chance.

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