European Private Law Monitoring Report n° 6
Table of contents
EUROPEAN COURT OF JUSTICE
Case-law in private law matters from 1st April 2014 – 30 June 2014
Unfair terms in consumer contracts (Directive 93/13/EEC)
|30 April 2014||C‑280/13||Barclays Bank SA/Sara Sánchez García et al||The Spanish court asked whether Directive 93/13 precludes national law, which, first, provides that in spite of the award of the mortgaged property with an estimated value which is greater than the total amount of the mortgage loan for an amount equal to 50% of that value to the mortgage lender when there is no third party bidder, that lender may continue with the enforcement proceedings for an amount corresponding to the outstanding amount of the debt and, second, allow the extension of the mortgage where the valuation of a mortgaged property decreases by 20%, without providing for an upward revision of that estimate in favour of the debtor. The CJEU held that those national statutory and regulatory provisions do not fall within the scope of Directive 93/13 since no unfair contractual term has been relied on.|
|30 April 2014||C‑26/13||Árpád Kásler, Hajnalka Káslerné Rábai/OTP Jelzálogbank Zrt||The CJEU clarified that the main subjectmatter of a contract covers a term, incorporated in a loan agreement denominated in foreign currency, pursuant to which the selling rate of exchange is applied for the purpose of calculating the repayment instalments for the loan, if that term lays down an essential obligation of that agreement. The difference between the selling rate of exchange and the buying rate of exchange of the foreign currency cannot be considered as ‘remuneration’ the adequacy of which cannot be the subject of an examination as regards unfairness. Secondly, the CJEU held that the requirement that a contractual term must be drafted in plain intelligible language requires that the contract sets out transparently the specific functioning of the mechanism of conversion for the foreign currency and the relationship between that mechanism and that provided for by other contractual terms relating to the advance of the loan, so that the consumer is in a position to evaluate the economic consequences for him. Finally, the national court may substitute a provision of national law for an unfair term in order to reestablish a balance between the parties to the contract and to preserve its validity.|
|Request for a preliminary ruling from the Juzgado de Primera Instancia (Spain) lodged on 10 January 2014||C-8/14||Unnim Banc, S.A./Diego Fernández Gabarro and Others||Compatibility of limitation period of one month provided for by Spanish Law on the protection of mortgagors, restructuring of debt and social rent.|
|Request for a preliminary ruling from the Fővárosi Törvényszék (Hungary) lodged on 23 January 2014||C-32/14||ERSTE Bank Hungary Zrt./Attila Sugár||Compatibility of national procedure according to which, in the event of a breach by the consumer of an obligation contained in a notary document, the other party to the contract avoids inter partes court proceedings and asserts its claim to the amount it indicates by issuing what is known as an enforcement clause, without any examination being possible of the unfairness of a term of the underlying contract.|
|Request for a preliminary ruling from the Juzgado de Primera Instancia de Miranda de Ebro (Spain) lodged on 24 February 2014||C-90/14||Banco Grupo Cajatres, S.A./D. Miguel Ángel Viana Gordejuela||Compatibility of a national provision, a) which provides at all events for a reduction of the default interest rate, regardless of whether the term concerning default interest was originally void because it was unfair, b) which allows the national court, when assessing the unfairness of a term fixing default interest, to examine only whether the agreed interest rate exceeds 3 times the statutory interest rate and no other circumstances, c) which allows a claim to be made for accelerated repayment of the total amount of the loan on the grounds of failure to pay three monthly instalments, without taking into account other factors such as the duration or amount of the loan or any other relevant matters and which also makes the possibility of avoiding the effects of such accelerated repayment dependent on the will of the creditor except in cases in which the mortgage is secured on the mortgagor’s permanent residence.|
|Request for a preliminary ruling from the Audiencia Provincial de Navarra (Spain) lodged on 26 February 2014||C-93/14||Miguel Angel Zurbano Belaza, Antonia Artieda Soria/Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, S.A||Applicability of Directive 93/13 in case of an action in personam brought by a bank in 2009 to recover the sum that it considers is owed to it by its clients following the sale at auction of their mortgaged properties and awarded at a ‘derisory’ price, if the mortgage loan was contracted in 1986, in view of the fact that the third auction (19 July 1993), the decisions of the court approving the quantification of the interest (3 July 2000) and definitively approving the order awarding the properties auctioned (18 July 2000) all post-date the publication of that directive.|
|Request for a preliminary ruling from the Judecătoria Câmpulung (Romania) lodged on 25 February 2014||C-92/14||Liliana Tudoran, Florin Iulian Tudoran, Ilie Tudoran/SC Suport Colect SRL||Temporal applicability of Directive 93/13. Unfairness of a clauses that refer to the existence of delays in payment on the part of the debtor, and those relating to the increase in the rate of interest after one year, after which the rate is the variable reference rate of the Banca Comercială Română, posted at the bank’s headquarters, increased by 1,90 [percent]. Compatibility of national law, which a) recognises the enforceability of a bank credit agreement concluded by private agreement and without allowing the terms thereof to be negotiated with the debtor, under which, with brief verification and after obtaining authorisation for enforcement in a non-contentious procedure, and with limited scope for the court to assess the amount of the debt, a bailiff may seize the debtor’s assets, b) which allows a creditor to seek enforcement of a debt deriving from unfair contractual terms by seizing an asset charged as security through the sale of the immovable property, notwithstanding the consumer’s objection, without an independent judge’s carrying out an examination of the contractual terms.|
|Request for a preliminary ruling from the Tribunal de grande instance de Nîmes (France) lodged on 28 February 2014||C-96/14||Jean-Claude Van Hove/CNP Assurances SA||Applicability of the Directive to a term of an insurance contract intended to ensure that loan repayments payable to the lender will be covered in the event of the borrower’s total incapacity for work if that term prevents the insured person from receiving that cover in the event that he is declared capable of carrying on unpaid employment.|
|Request for a preliminary ruling from the Judecătoria Oradea (Romania) lodged on 7 March 2014||C-110/14||Horațiu Ovidiu Costea/SC Volksbank România SA||Definition of ‘consumer’ under the Directive. Natural person who practises as a lawyer and concludes a credit agreement with a bank, in which the purpose of the credit concerned is not specified, when in that agreement that natural person’s law firm is stated to be the guarantor for the mortgage.|
|Request for a preliminary ruling from the Juzgado de Primera Instancia No 5 de Cartagena (Spain) lodged on 14 March 2014||C-122/14||Aktiv Kapital Portfolio Investments/Ángel Luis Egea Torregrosa||Compatibility of national law that does not allow the court to review of its own motion in limine litis the judicial enforceable instrument — an order made by the court bringing the order-for-payment proceedings to an end in the absence of any objections — in order to ascertain whether there are unfair terms in the contract that served as a basis for the issue of that decree whose enforcement is sought (res judicata).|
|Request for a preliminary ruling from the Audiencia Provincial de Castellón (Spain) lodged on 7 April 2014||C-169/14||Juan Carlos Sánchez Morcillo, María del Carmen Abril García/Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria, S.A.||Compatibility of national rules applicable to appeals against a decision determining the outcome of an objection to enforcement proceedings in relation to mortgaged or pledged goods.|
Unfair commercial practices (Directive 2005/29/EC)
|3 April 2014||C‑515/12||4finance’ UAB/Valstybinė vartotojų teisių apsaugos tarnyba et al||The CJEU had to rule on the conditions under which a system of trade promotion can be considered a ‘pyramid promotional scheme’ within the meaning of Annex I, point 14, of Directive 2005/29 and, therefore, is prohibited in all circumstances. It held that a pyramid promotional scheme constitutes an unfair commercial practice only where such a scheme requires the consumer to give financial consideration, regardless of its amount, for the opportunity to receive compensation that is derived primarily from the introduction of other consumers into the scheme rather than from the sale or consumption of products.|
|30 April 2014||C‑475/12||UPC DTH Sàrl/Nemzeti Média- és Hírközlési Hatóság Elnökhelyettese||This case concerns the scope of electronic communications services and, therefore, the application of the provisions laid down by the Electronic Communications Regulatory Framewok and the application of the principle of the freedom to provide services ‒as enshrined in Article 56 TFEU‒ to the services at issue (package of programmes which contains radio and television broadcast services). The Court concludes that Article 2(c) of the Framewok Directive is also applicable to those services consisting in the supply of conditional access to a package of programmes which contains radio and television broadcast services and is retransmitted by satellite. Accordingly, an operator supplying a service shall be considered an electronic communications provider in the light of the EU Regulatory Framework for Electronic Communications. It also constitutes a a provision of services for the purposes of Article 56 TFEU.|
|19 June 2014||C‑556/12||TDC A/S/Teleklagenævnet||This case concerns the competence of the National Regulatory Authorities (NRAs) to impose an obligation relating to access to and use of specific network elements and associated facilities. According to the Court, Articles 2(a), 8 and 12 of te Access Directive entitle NRA to impose regulatory access obligations to operators with Significant Market Power (SMP) as long as that obligation is based on the nature of the problem identified, proportionate and justified. To this end, when assessing SMP, NRAs have to take into account the initial investment made by the operator concerned and the existence of a price control that makes it possible to recover the costs of installation.|
|Request for a preliminary ruling from the Grondwettelijk Hof (Belgium) lodged on 2 January 2014||C-1/14||KPN Group Belgium NV and Mobistar NV/Ministerraad Intervener: Belgacom NV||Applicability of the social tariff for universal service as well as the compensation mechanism provided for in the Universal Services Directive to electronic communications by means of a telephone connection at a fixed location to a public communications network but also to electronic communications by means of mobile communication services and/or internet subscriptions. Discretion of Member States to add special tariff options to the universal service.|
|Request for a preliminary ruling from the Fővárosi Törvényszék (Hungary) lodged on 23 January 2014||C-32/14||ERSTE Bank Hungary Zrt./Attila Sugár||Compatibility of national procedure according to which, in the event of a breach by the consumer of an obligation contained in a notary document, the other party to the contract avoids inter partes court proceedings and asserts its claim to the amount it indicates by issuing what is known as an enforcement clause, without any examination being possible of the unfairness of a term of the underlying contract.|
|Request for a preliminary ruling from the Sąd Najwyższy (Poland) lodged on 3 January 2014||C-3/14||Polska Telefonia Cyfrowa SA/Prezes Urzędu Komunikacji Elektronicznej||Obligations of a national regulatory authority under the Framework Directive and the Universal Services Directive where the measures to ensure that end-users from other Member States are able to access non-geographic numbers within the territory of that Member State affect trade between Member States. Obligation to conduct consolidation procedures.|
|Request for a preliminary ruling from the College van Beroep voor het Bedrijfsleven (Netherlands) lodged on 18 February 2014||C-85/14||KPN BV/Autoriteit Consument en Markt (ACM), other parties: UPC Nederland BV and Others||Obligations of national regulatory authority. Imposition of tariff regulation, without a market analysis having indicated that an operator has significant market power in regard to the regulated service, although the cross-border selectability of non-geographic telephone numbers is entirely possible from a technical point of view and the only obstacle to access to those numbers lies in the fact that the tariffs charged mean that a call to a nongeographic number is more expensive than a call to a geographic number.|
|5 June 2014||C‑198/12||Commission/Bulgaria||The Commission considers that the Republic of Bulgaria has failed to fulfil its obligations under Articles 14(1) and 16(1) and (2)(b) of Regulation No 715/2009, on the ground that Bulgartransgaz EAD, the gas transmission system operator within the national territory, does not provide virtual reverse flow capacity at every entry and exit point of that network, namely, Negru Voda, where the Bulgarian system connects with the Romanian system, and Sikirokastrou, where it connects with the Greek system. The CJEU dismissed the action of the Commission against Bulgaria as it could not establish an obligation to provide a virtual reverse flow gas transmission capacity.|
|8 May 2014||Joined Cases C‑359/11 and C‑400/11||Alexandra Schulz/Technische Werke Schussental GmbH und Co. KG, Josef Egbringhoff/Stadtwerke Ahaus GmbH||According to German law, gas and electricity suppliers have a duty to conclude contracts with household customers when they operate on the basis of a universal service obligation. To these contracts a standard rate for energy supply is applied. The issue that arises is whether — as a corollary to that duty — service providers also enjoy a statutory right to vary prices unilaterally. Advocate General Wahl concluded that the transparency requirement laid under the Energy Directives is not satisfied, in relation to the supply of electricity or gas to household customers on the basis of a contract for universal supply, by provisions of national law which, in regulating price adjustment under such contracts, do not require suppliers to disclose to the customer the grounds, preconditions and scope of the price adjustment at the latest by the time that the customer is informed of the adjustment.|
|Request for a preliminary ruling from the Administrativen sad Sofia-grad (Bulgaria) lodged on 17 February 2014||C-83/14||CEZ Razpredelenie Bulgaria AD v Komisa za zashtita ot diskiminatsia||Discrimination on the basis of ethnic origin under Directive 2000/43 in case the measuring instruments for the electricity consumption are positioned in Roma districts of a Bulgarian town at a height of between 6 and 7 metres whereas in other districts not densely populated by Roma they are generally positioned lower than 2 metres above ground.|
|9 April 2014||C‑616/11||T-Mobile Austria GmbH/ Verein für Konsumenteninformation||The questions raised by the referring court seek to establish whether Article 52(3) of the Directive 2007/64/EC applies to mobile phone companies, whether a credit transfer constitutes a payment instrument within the meaning of the Directive and whether the general prohibition of surcharges in Austria is compatible with that Article. The CJEU affirmed Article 52(3) as being applicable to the use of a payment instrument in the course of the contractual relationship between a mobile phone operator, as payee, and that operator’s customer, as payer. Both the procedure for ordering transfers by means of a transfer order form signed by the payer in person and the procedure for ordering transfers through online banking constitute payment instruments. The Member States have the power to prohibit generally payees from levying charges on the payer for the use of any payment instrument, if the national legislation, as a whole, takes into account the need to encourage competition and the use of efficient payment instruments, which is for the referring court to ascertain.|
|15 May 2014||C‑359/12||Michael Timmel/Aviso Zeta AG||The CJEU held that Regulation (EC) No 809/2004 as regards information contained in prospectuses is to be interpreted as meaning that information required under Article 22(1) which, although not known at the time of publication of the base prospectus, nevertheless was known at the time of publication of a supplement to that prospectus must be published in that supplement if the information involves a significant new factor, material mistake or inaccuracy capable of affecting the assessment of the securities. The requirements are not satisfied by the publication of a base prospectus not including the information required under Article 22(1), if that publication is not supplemented by publication of the final terms. The requirement that a prospectus must be easily accessible on the website on which it is made available to the public is not fulfilled where there is an obligation to register on that website, entailing acceptance of a disclaimer and the obligation to provide an email address, where a charge is made for that electronic access or where consultation of parts of the prospectus free of charge is restricted to two documents per month. The base prospectus has to be made available to the public both at the registered office of the issuer and at the offices of the financial intermediaries.|
|Request for a preliminary ruling from the Augstākā tiesa (Republic of Latvia) lodged on 18 March 2014||C-127/14||Andrejs Surmačs/Finanšu un kapitāla tirgus komisija||Interpretation of part 7 of Annex I to Directive 94/19/EC on deposit-guarantee schemes.|
|11 June 2014||C‑310/13||Novo Nordisk Pharma GmbH/S||German law excludes the application of the Product Liability Directive in cases of damage to consumer’s health resulting from a use of medicines. To these cases a special system of liability applies (Arzneimittelgesetz). The German court asks whether this system falls outside the scope of the Directive and, therefore, may be regulated independently from its provisions. According to Advocate-General Szpunar, the Directive limits the possibility to other liability systems to circumstances when the rights of consumers under such special liability systems existed at the time of the Directive’s implementation. The consumer’s entitlement to claim certain rights under this system have to have existed before the implementation of the Directive. However, the consumer’s rights of information provided for by the Arzneimittelgesetz remain unaffected by the Product Liability Directive.|
|13 May 2014||C‑131/12||Google Spain SL, Google Inc./Agencia Española de Protección de Datos (AEPD), Mario Costeja González||The CJEU held that an internet search engine operator is responsible for the processing of personal data that it carries out and that appear on web pages of third parties. Thus, the operator is obliged to remove from the list of results displayed following a search made on the basis of a person’s name links to web pages, also in a case where that name or information is not erased beforehand or simultaneously from those web pages, and even, as the case may be, when its publication in itself on those pages is lawful. The right to request that the information no longer be made available to the general public overrides not only the economic interest of the operator of the search engine but also the interest of the general public in having access to that information upon a search relating to the data subject’s name.|
Public Service Contracts
|8 May 2014||C‑15/13||Technische Universität Hamburg-Harburg, Hochschul-Informations-System GmbH/Datenlotsen Informationssysteme GmbH||In broad terms, the CJEU was asked whether, and, if so, in what circumstances, so-called ‘horizontal in-house’ transactions may fall outside the scope of Directive 2004/18/EC and be awarded directly, without putting into effect the public procurement procedures laid down under the directive. Specifically, the CJEU concluded that a contract for the supply of products concluded between (i) a university which is a contracting authority and whose purchases of products and services are controlled by a German Federal State, and (ii) an undertaking under private law, owned by the Federation and by Federal States, including the abovementioned Federal State, constitutes a public contract for the purposes of that provision, and must therefore be subject to the public procurement rules laid down in that directive.|
|30 April 2014||C‑113/13||ASL No 5 ‘Spezzino’A.N.P.A.S. Associazione Nazionale Pubblica Assistenza — Comitato Regionale Liguria Regione Liguria/San Lorenzo Società Cooperativa Sociale Croce Verde Cogema Cooperativa Sociale Onlus||The Italian Consiglio di Stato seeks guidance as to whether a national provision that requires public authorities, under certain conditions, to award the operation of medical transport services directly to voluntary organisations is compatible with the EU internal market provisions. Advocate General Wahl held that Articles 49 and 56 TFEU and Directive 2004/18/EC preclude a national provision under which, when contracts for the supply of medical transport services are awarded, priority is given to voluntary organisations, such contracts being awarded to them without any form of call for competition and providing only for reimbursement of the costs actually incurred.|
|Request for a preliminary ruling from the Oberlandesgericht Koblenz (Germany) lodged on 11 March 2014||C-115/14||RegioPost GmbH & Co. KG/Stadt Landau||Compatibility of a national provision which makes it mandatory for a contracting authority to award contracts only to undertakings which undertake and whose subcontractors undertake in writing, at the time of submitting the tender, to pay their employees who perform the contract a minimum wage fixed by the State for public contracts only but not for private ones, where there is neither a general statutory minimum wage nor a universally binding collective agreement that binds potential contractors and possible subcontractors.|
Compensation for competition law infringements
|5 June 2014||C-557/12||Kone AG et al v ÖBB-Infrastruktur AG||The CJEU held that Article 101 TFEU precludes the interpretation and application of national legislation which categorically excludes, for legal reasons, any civil liability of undertakings belonging to a cartel for loss resulting from the fact that an undertaking not party to the cartel, having regard to the practices of the cartel, set its prices higher than would otherwise have been expected under competitive conditions (umbrella pricing).|
|Request for a preliminary ruling from the Landgericht Hannover (Germany) lodged on 14 February 2014||C-79/14||TUIfly GmbH/Harald Walter||Applicability of Regulation No 261/2004 to a non-notified ‘early’ flight, with the result that the passengers cannot take the flight. Decisiveness of the cause of the delay. Compensation if the passenger would arrive earlier and therefore time arrangements before the flight are concerned.|
|Request for a preliminary ruling from the Kúria (Hungary) lodged on 27 February 2014||C-94/14||Flight Refund Ltd/Deutsche Lufthansa AG||Pursuing a claim for compensation based on Article 19 of the Montreal Convention in the context of the European order for payment procedure.|
|Request for a preliminary ruling from the Amtsgericht Rüsselsheim (Germany) lodged on 12 March 2014||C-119/14||Henricus Cornelis Maria Niessen and Others/Condor Flugdienst GmbH||Definition of extraordinary circumstances within the meaning of Article 5(3) of Regulation No 261/2004.|
|Request for a preliminary ruling from the Amtsgericht Rüsselsheim (Germany) lodged on 12 March 2014||C-118/14||Peggy Kieck/Condor Flugdienst GmbH||Right to compensation where the departure of the booked flight is delayed by more than three hours, the passenger rebooks on another airline and the delay on arrival compared with the original flight is thereby appreciably reduced, whilst both the original flight and the replacement flight arrive at the original destination far more than three hours late.|
Judicial Cooperation in Civil Matters
|3 April 2014||C‑387/12||Hi Hotel HCF SARL/Uwe Spoering||The CJEU interpreted Article 5(3) of Regulation No 44/2001 as meaning that, where there are several supposed perpetrators of damage allegedly caused to rights of copyright protected in the Member State of the court seised, that provision does not allow jurisdiction to be established, on the basis of the causal event of the damage, of a court within whose jurisdiction the supposed perpetrator who is being sued did not act, but does allow the jurisdiction of that court to be established on the basis of the place where the alleged damage occurs, provided that the damage may occur within the jurisdiction of the court seised. If that is the case, the court has jurisdiction only to rule on the damage caused in the territory of the Member State to which it belongs.|
|5 June 2014||C‑360/12||Coty Germany GmbH, formerly Coty Prestige Lancaster Group GmbH/First Note Perfumes NV||The CJEU held that the concept of ‘the Member State in which the act of infringement has been committed’ in Article 93(5) of Regulation (EC) No 40/94 means that, in the event of a sale and delivery of a counterfeit product in one Member State, followed by a resale by the purchaser in another Member State, that provision does not allow jurisdiction to be established to hear an infringement action against the original seller who did not himself act in the Member State where the court seised is situated. Regarding Article 5(3) of Regulation (EC) No 44/2001, the CJEU held that, in the event of an allegation of unlawful comparative advertising or unfair imitation of a sign protected by a Community trade mark, prohibited by the law against unfair competition of the Member State in which the court seised is situated, that provision does not allow jurisdiction to be established for a court in that Member State where the presumed perpetrator did not himself act. However, that provision allows jurisdiction to be established, on the basis of the place of occurrence of damage.|
DG AGRICULTURE AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT
Organics: Commission proposal for more and better
The European Commission has published new proposals for a new Regulation on organic production and the labelling of organic products. Consumer and producer concerns are at the heart of this new proposal, which seeks to address shortcomings of the current system. The EU organic market has quadrupled in size over the last 10 years and rules need to be updated and adjusted so that the sector can further develop and respond to future challenges.
Commission adopts revised safe harbour rules for minor agreements (“De Minimis Notice”)
The European Commission has issued revised rules (its so-called “De Minimis Notice”) for assessing when minor agreements between companies are not caught by the general prohibition of anticompetitive practices under EU competition law. The Notice facilitates the assessment of compliance with EU antitrust rules for companies, especially SMEs.
The main change in the revised Notice is that it clarifies that agreements aimed at restricting competition (so-called restrictions “by object”, because they have an anti-competitive object) cannot be considered minor and always constitute an appreciable restriction of competition, in violation of Article 101(1) TFEU. These agreements can never benefit from this safe harbour. This was confirmed by the Court of Justice of the European Union in theExpedia judgment (case C-226/11), following a question referred to it by a French court.
Commission adopts revised safe harbours for minor agreements (“De Minimis Notice”) and provides guidance on “by object” restrictions of competition – Frequently asked questions
Commission extends validity of special competition regime for liner shipping consortia until April 2020
The European Commission has extended by another five years until April 2020 the validity of the existing legal framework exempting, if certain conditions are met, liner shipping consortia from EU antitrust rules. After a public consultation, the Commission has concluded that the exemption has worked well, providing legal certainty to agreements which bring benefits to customers and do not unduly distort competition, and that current market circumstances warrant a prolongation.
The maritime consortia block exemption regulation allows shipping lines with a combined market share of below 30% to enter into cooperation agreements to provide joint cargo transport services (so-called “consortia”). Such agreements usually allow liner shipping carriers to rationalise their activities and achieve economies of scale.
Commission approves acquisition of part of Honeywell’s friction material business by rival Federal-Mogul, subject to conditions
The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of the European part of Honeywell’s friction material business by another large US friction material manufacturer, Federal-Mogul Corporation. Both companies produce friction material, in particular brake pads for trucks and passenger cars. In these segments, both companies have a strong presence in the European Economic Area (EEA) for original equipment and original equipment spare parts (OEM/OES). The clearance is conditional upon the divestment of the OEM/OES business at a German and a French factory producing brake pads for commercial and light vehicles. The Commission had concerns that the transaction, as originally notified, would have significantly reduced competition in these markets in the EEA. The commitments offered by Federal-Mogul address these concerns.
Commission welcomes General Court judgment upholding its decision against Intel
The European Commission welcomes today’s judgment by the General Court (case T-286/09) which fully upholds the Commission’s 2009 Decision which found that Intel had abused its dominant position and which imposed on Intel a fine of €1.06 billion (see IP/09/745).
On 13 May 2009, the Commission adopted a decision prohibiting Intel’s anticompetitive conduct under Article 7 of the EU’s Antitrust Regulation (Regulation 1/2003). The decision concluded that Intel had, in breach of Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (ex Article 82 of the EC Treaty), engaged in two types of abuse of its dominant position in the x86 CPU market – i.e. essentially, the market for computer chips. These were: (1) granting rebates to 4 PC and server manufacturers (Dell, HP, NEC, Lenovo) conditional on them obtaining all or almost all of their supplies from Intel, and payments to one downstream computer retailer (Media Markt) conditional on it only selling PCs with Intel CPUs (“conditional rebates”); and (2) granting direct payments to 3 computer manufacturers (HP, Acer and Lenovo) to halt, delay or limit the launch of specific products incorporating chips from Intel’s only rival, AMD (so-called “naked restrictions”).
In its decision, the Commission found that the conditions and payments relating to these abuses were not generally written in any contracts and that Intel had tried to conceal them.
Commission clears acquisition of Telefónica Ireland by Hutchison 3G, subject to conditions
The European Commission has approved under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of Telefónica Ireland’s mobile telecommunications business (O2 Ireland) by Hutchison 3G (H3G). The approval is conditional upon a commitments package submitted by H3G. The Commission had concerns that the merger, as initially notified, would have removed an important competitive force from the Irish mobile telecommunications market to the detriment of consumers. To address these concerns, H3G submitted commitments ensuring that new competitors will enter the mobile telecommunications market in Ireland. These commitments remove the Commission’s concerns.
Commission approves PVC joint venture between INEOS and Solvay, subject to conditions
Following an in-depth investigation, the European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed combination of the European chlorvinyls businesses of INEOS AG of Switzerland and Solvay S.A. of Belgium into a newly created joint venture. The approval is conditional upon the divestiture of certain of INEOS’ suspension polyvinyl chloride (“S-PVC”) plants and related assets. This divestment will provide its purchaser with a self-standing S-PVC business capable of competing with the new joint venture. The Commission had concerns that the transaction, as originally notified, would have enabled the merged entity to raise prices for S-PVC in North West Europe and for sodium hypochlorite (“bleach”) in the Benelux, since it combined the two largest suppliers in these markets. The commitments offered address these concerns.
Annual report shows how competition policy contributes to boosting competitiveness
Commission approves acquisition of chemical company DuPont’s GLSV business by rival Kuraray, subject to conditions
The European Commission has cleared under the EU Merger Regulation the proposed acquisition of DuPont’s Glass Laminating Solutions/Vinyls (GLSV) business (USA) by Kuraray of Japan. The clearance is conditional upon the divestment of GLSV’s PVB film production facility in Uentrop (Germany), where the merged entity would have otherwise faced insufficient competitive constraint from the only one remaining player, leading to higher prices. Both parties to the transaction are active in the manufacture and supply of the following products which are part of one vertical chain: Vinyl Acetate Monomer (VAM), Polyvinyl Alcohol (PVA), Polyvinyl Butyral (PVB) resin and PVB film. The main impact of the transaction is in PVB film, which is used as an interlayer in the manufacture of laminated safety glass in the architectural and automotive industries. PVB film ensures that when the glass breaks the fragments remain stuck to the film in between.
Commission accepts legally binding commitments by Samsung Electronics on standard essential patent injunctions
The European Commission has rendered commitments offered by Samsung Electronics (Samsung) legally binding under EU antitrust rules. According to these commitments, Samsung will not seek injunctions in Europe on the basis of its standard essential patents (SEPs) for smartphones and tablets against licensees who sign up to a specified licensing framework. Under this framework, any dispute over what are fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (so-called “FRAND”) terms for the SEPs in question will be determined by a court, or if both parties agree, by an arbitrator. The commitments therefore provide a “safe harbour” for all potential licensees of the relevant Samsung SEPs. Indeed, potential licensees that sign up to the licensing framework will be protected against SEP-based injunctions by Samsung (see also MEMO/14/322). The Commission has also taken a prohibition decision in a separate investigation concerning Motorola (see IP/14/489).
Commission finds that Motorola Mobility infringed EU competition rules by misusing standard essential patents
The European Commission adopted a decision which finds that Motorola Mobility’s (Motorola) seeking and enforcement of an injunction against Apple before a German court on the basis of a smartphone standard essential patent (SEP) constitutes an abuse of a dominant position prohibited by EU antitrust rules in view of the particular circumstances in which the injunction was used (see also MEMO/14/322). The Commission has ordered Motorola to eliminate the negative effects resulting from it. The Commission has also taken a commitment decision in a separate investigation concerning Samsung (see IP/14/490).
Antitrust decisions on standard essential patents (SEPs) – Motorola Mobility and Samsung Electronics – Frequently asked questions
Commission welcomes Parliament vote to facilitate damages claims by victims of antitrust violations
The European Parliament has approved a proposal for a Directive which will help citizens and companies claim damages if they are victims of infringements of the EU antitrust rules, such as cartels and abuses of dominant market positions. The Directive is based on a proposal by the Commission of June 2013 (see IP/13/525 andMEMO/13/531), and aims to remove a number of practical difficulties which victims frequently face when they try to obtain compensation for the harm they have suffered. In particular, it will give victims easier access to evidence they need to prove the damage and more time to make their claims. At the same time it ensures that the effectiveness of the tools used by competition authorities to enforce antitrust rules, in particular leniency and settlement programmes, is preserved.
Commission proposal for Directive to facilitate damages claims by victims of antitrust violations – frequently asked questions
DG ECONOMIC AND FINANCIAL AFFAIRS
June 2014: Flash Consumer Confidence Indicator
DG EMPLOYMENT, SOCIAL AFFAIRS & INCLUSION
Commission welcomes Council adoption of Posting of Workers Enforcement Directive
The European Commission has welcomed definitive adoption by the EU’s Council of Ministers of new measures to better enforce EU rules on the posting of workers. The new Posting of Workers Enforcement Directive will safeguard respect for posted workers’ rights in practice and strengthen the legal framework for service providers.
The new Enforcement Directive will help to ensure that these rules are better applied in practice, especially in some sectors such as construction and road haulage, where for example so-called ‘letter box’ companies (without any real economic activity in their ‘home’ country) have been using false ‘posting’ to circumvent national rules on social security and labour conditions.
Free movement of workers: Commission welcomes Council adoption of Directive to improve enforcement of workers’ rights
The European Commission welcomes adoption by the EU’s Council of Ministers of a new Directive to ensure the better application at national level of EU citizens’ right to work in another Member State. The new rules, proposed by the Commission in April 2013, aim to bridge the gap between rights and reality and will make it easier for people working or looking for a job in another country to exercise their rights in practice.
Is delivery of the Internal Energy Market on time?
DG ENTERPRISE AND INDUSTRY
Air Passage Rights
The European Commission has published a report reviewing passenger rights’ complaint handling and enforcement in the European air transport sector between 2010 and 2012
European Central Bank report on the results of the survey on the access to finance of SMEs in the euro area – October 2013 to March 2014
The report mainly provides evidence on changes in the financial situation, financing needs and access to financing of SMEs in the euro area, compared with large firms, during the preceding six months.
SMEs reported deterioration in the availability of bank loans, albeit less than in the previous survey round (-4% of respondents, in net terms, after -11% in the previous round). The survey results indicate a marginal decline in the rejection rate for euro area SMEs when applying for a loan (11%, down from 12%). The percentage of SMEs reporting access to finance as their main problem declined to 14% (from 16%).
European Parliament votes to end roaming charges, expand consumer rights and make it easier create better telecoms
The plenary of the European Parliament voted to end roaming charges by Christmas 2015, as part of a wider vote in support the Commission’s proposed regulation for a “Connected Continent” (telecoms single market).
New companies join the fight against illegal online sale of counterfeit goods
The European Commission has hosted the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Sale of Counterfeit Goods via the Internet by three new stakeholders: the European Association of Pharmaceutical Full-line Wholesalers (GIRP), PierreRiu and Videdressing.
This MoU, which was concluded under the auspices of the Commission on 4 May 2011, brings together major internet platforms (such as eBay, Amazon, Allegro and Rakuten/PriceMinister) and right holders from the fast moving consumer goods, luxury goods, wines and spirits, toys, sporting goods, consumer electronics, film, software and video-game industries (such as Adidas, Nike, Lego, Mattel, LVMH, Burberry, Nokia, Unilever and Procter & Gamble), in a joint fight against the online sale of counterfeit goods.
Pushing consumer safety. 10th anniversary of Europe’s Rapid alert system on dangerous products
For 10 years the EU Rapid Information system (RAPEX) has been guarding European consumers against un-safe non-food products. In 2013 a total of 2,364 measures were taken by EU Member States.
In 2013, clothing, textiles and fashion items and toys (both 25%), were the two main product categories for which corrective measures had to be taken. Among the most frequently notified risks caused by these products were chemical risks, risk of strangulation, risk of injury and choking.
DG HEALTH AND CONSUMERS
Restoring confidence in medical devices. Action Plan after the PIP scandal tightened control in Europe
the EPSCO Council has discussed the joint actions taken by the European Commission and the Member States to restore confidence following the scandal of defective breast implants produced by the French PIP company. These measures were included in the Joint Plan for Immediate Actions under the existing Medical Devices legislation (the so-called PIP Joint Action Plan) agreed in 2012 (See IP/12/119).
The Plan has resulted in substantial progress, in particular in the following areas:
(i) Based on a Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 920/2013 of 2013 clarifying the criteria to be met by notified bodies, Member States have re-assessed the qualifications and the scope of activities of theirnotified bodies. This resulted in corrective measures or limitations in the scope of activities of notified bodies in 8 countries;
(ii) By May 2014, voluntary joint audits of notified bodies by teams involving auditors from several Member States and the Commission have been carried out in 22 out of 23 countries having notified bodies. The last audit in the remaining country has already been scheduled. The audits have resulted in the identification of problems in the way notified bodies operated. Where major shortcomings were identified, immediate corrective action was taken, including temporarily suspending or limiting the scope of activities of the notified body concerned. In one case, the notified body is no longer able to issue certificates. Where necessary, a re-assessment of all certificates issued was requested. For one notified body of the 689 certificates checked, 45 were suspended and 18 withdrawn.. Under the new Commission Implementing Regulation, such joint audits were made mandatory for new designations and re-designations of notified bodies. 20-25 such audits are foreseen for 2014.
The right to a basic bank account for all European citizens: Commission welcomes European Parliament adoption
On 15 April, The European Parliament has adopted in plenary session the Directive on the transparency and comparability of payment account fees, payment account switching and access to a basic payment account.
Co-ordinated enforcement action leads to greater compliance with Consumer Rights on travel websites
In a concerted action by national consumer authorities co-ordinated by the European Commission an astonishing 382 out of 552 websites checked in 2013 did not respect European consumer law. As a result of vigorous enforcement action, 62% of the websites checked are now treating consumers as they should. The remaining 38% can expect further action against them as European authorities continue work to ensure that consumer rights are fully respected.
EU Consumer Summit 2014: Ensuring that consumers reap the benefits of the digital economy
Completing the digital single market would benefit EU consumers by on average €400 a year, some €200 billion Europe wide. The digital economy brings real benefits for consumers, but it also raises important questions about consumers’ rights online. This year’s Consumer Summit will focus on how we can ensure that consumers reap the full benefits from the digital sector.
DG INTERNAL MARKET AND SERVICES
New Rules to strengthen regulation and transparency of remuneration in banks and investment firms in the EU
On 26 June, new EU rules to strengthen regulation and transparency of remuneration in banks and investment firms in the European Union ( IP/14/210) have entered into force following publication in the Official Journal of the EU on 6 June 2014 ( OJ L 167). The new rules relate to the identification of categories of staff whose professional activities have a material impact on an institution’s risk profile (so-called ‘material risk takers’). This matters because the risk takers are the people who have to comply with EU rules on variable remuneration (including bonuses). These standards supplement the requirements of the Capital Requirements Directive (CRD IV) which entered into force on 17 July 2013 (see MEMO/13/690) and which strengthened the rules regarding the relationship between the variable (or bonus) component of total remuneration and the fixed component (or salary). For performance from 1 January 2014 onwards, the variable component shall not exceed 100% of the fixed component of the total remuneration of material risk takers. Under certain conditions, shareholders can increase this maximum ratio to 200%.
Consultation by the European Commission on the contributions of institutions to resolution financing arrangements
The European Commission is launching a consultation on key elements for the determination of contributions of institutions to the resolution financing arrangements established by the framework for the recovery and resolution of credit institutions and investment firms (BRRD), and the Single Resolution Mechanism Regulation (SRMR).
Another step in the implementation of the bank reform: publication of two key pieces of the Single Rulebook for banks
On 12 June, the Directive on the Recovery and Resolution of Credit Institutions and Investment Firms (BRRD) and the recastDirective on Deposit Guarantee Schemes (DGS) have been published in the EU Official Journal. The BRRD provides a complete framework for the crisis management of banks, while the DGS Directive strengthens the protection of citizens’ deposits in case of bank failures. Member States must now transpose both texts into their national legislation within the defined timeline. Today’s publications contribute to making the Single Rulebook for the banks of the 28 Member States a reality and pave the way to its centralised implementation within the Banking Union (see MEMO/14/294 available in all EU languages).
New legislative framework for markets in financial instruments published in the Official Journal
On 12 June, the Directive on Markets in Financial Instruments repealing Directive 2004/39/EC (MiFID II) and the Regulation on Markets in Financial Instruments (MiFIR) have been published in the EU Official Journal. Member States have two years to transpose the new rules which will be applicable starting January 2017. The new framework aims to make financial markets more efficient, resilient and transparent. It introduces a market structure which closes loopholes and ensures that trading, wherever appropriate, takes place on regulated platforms. It introduces rules on high frequency trading. It improves the transparency and oversight of financial markets – including derivatives markets – and addresses the issue of excessive price volatility in commodity derivatives markets. A new framework will improve conditions for competition in the trading and clearing of financial instruments. Building on the rules already in place, the revised MiFID also strengthens the protection of investors by introducing robust organisational and conduct requirements or by strengthening the role of management bodies. The new framework also increases the role and supervisory powers of regulators and establishes powers to prohibit or restrict the marketing and distribution of certain products in well-defined circumstances. A harmonised regime for granting access to EU professional markets for firms from third countries, based on an equivalence assessment of third country jurisdictions by the Commission, is introduced.
Financial regulation: European Commission presents a first comprehensive review of the EU’s reform agenda
With most financial reform measures now adopted, the European Commission has published a first comprehensive review of the financial regulation agenda as a whole on 15 May. This economic review sets out how the reforms will deliver a safer and more responsible financial system by enhancing financial stability, deepening the single market for financial services and improving its efficiency whilst improving market integrity and confidence. Evidence suggests that the total expected benefits of the financial regulation agenda will outweigh the expected costs, both on a rule-by-rule basis and when considering the reforms as a whole. Many rules create considerable positive synergies, e.g. between the capital requirements package in banking and the reform of derivatives markets. The financial system is already changing and improving. This change will continue as the reforms take effect.
The right investment to suit your needs: basic information document will help retail investors make the right choice
On 15 April, the European Parliament endorsed the outcome of the inter-institutional trilogue of 1 April and voted in a new pre-contractual information document for retail consumers. This document will have to be given to all retail consumers before they buy an investment product offered to them by a bank, an insurance company or an investment fund. The new information document will have to indicate what the product invests in, what its risks and potential rewards are and what total costs will come the consumers’ way in the course of the product’s life cycle.
Greater protection for retail investors: Commission welcomes European Parliament adoption of strengthened European rules on UCITS
The European Parliament has today adopted in plenary session an amended Directive on the coordination of laws, regulations and administrative provisions relating to undertakings for collective investment in transferable securities as regards depositary functions, remuneration policies and sanctions (the so-called UCITS V). The new rules will considerably strengthen the protection of investors vis-à-vis managers of UCITS funds and their depositaries. It will also ensure that managers who break the law will be sanctioned in an appropriate way.
Finalising the Banking Union: European Parliament backs Commission’s proposals (Single Resolution Mechanism, Bank Recovery and Resolution Directive, and Deposit Guarantee Schemes Directive)
Internal Market and Services Commissioner Michel Barnier said: “Today, the European Parliament has adopted 3 key texts to complete the legislative work underpinning the banking union. Thanks to the assiduous work of the co-legislators, we have turned the idea of a Banking Union into reality in less than two years. The EU has lived up to its commitments: the banking union completes the economic and monetary union and ensures taxpayers will no longer foot the bill when banks face difficulties.
Basic information for retail consumers: European Parliament and Council back Commission’s proposal on a Key Information Document covering retail investments
On 1st April, the European Parliament and the Council have reached agreement on a mandatory ‘Key Information Document’ to be supplied to retail consumers who wish to invest their savings. The proposed rules require the financial services industry to provide basic information about their investment products, the risk and return that can be expected as well as the overall aggregate cost that will arise in making the investment.
DG Justice published Guidance Document on the interpretation of the Consumer Rights Directive 2011/83/EU
On 13 June, the DG Justice published a Document in which provides a non-legally binding guidance on the interpretations of the provisions established in the Directive 2011/83/EU (the Consumer Rights Directive). The new Directive replaced Council Directive 85/577/EEC to protect the consumer in respect of contracts negotiated away from business premises and Directive 97/7/EC on the protection of consumers in respect of distance contracts. Whilst these former directives only provide for a minimum level of harmonization, the Consumer Rights Directive is, in principle, a full harmonization Directive, which was required for being transposed into national laws by 13 December 2013 and, therefore, enforceable by13 June 2014.
Although the guidance is published under the responsibility of the DG Justice, it is a result of work carried out in cooperation with and after consulting Member States’ authorities in charge of the transposition and enforcement of the Directive, industry and consumer stakeholders. By aiming a uniform implementation of the Directive’s objectives, this document provides guidance on the Directive’s key concepts and provisions such as the concepts of off-promises and distance contract, as well as the concepts of fee and cost borne by the trader. It also includes practical examples that show how the Directive should work such as the circumstance in which the consumer has the right to withdraw.
To access the entire Guidance Document on the Consumer Rights Directive, please follow the link below.
Taking consumer rights into the digital age: over 507 million citizens will benefit as of today
The new EU Consumer Rights Directive, which has now entered into force, strengthens consumers’ rights wherever and whenever they shop in Europe – online or on the high street. Businesses will also benefit from these new rules which create a level-playing field, making it less costly for traders to offer their products and services to consumers across borders. The new rules will for example ensure that EU-wide, consumers have 14 days to change their minds and pull out of any online purchase or off-premises purchase (when a seller visits the consumer’s home) – up from the previous minimum 7 days. The new rules also ban surcharges for the use of credit cards and hotlines, as well as pre-ticked boxes on websites for charging additional payments (for example when buying plane tickets online). To make sure these new rules are applied in a uniform manner across the EU, so that consumers benefit from them no matter in which Member State they are, the European Commission is also publishing a guidance document for national authorities, including an optional model for essential consumer information to be displayed on digital products.
‘Right to be forgotten’ and online search engines ruling
As Google announced it would take the necessary measures to comply with the European Court of Justice’slandmark ruling from 13 May on the right to be forgotten, Vice-President Reding said the following: “It is a good development that Google has announced that it will finally take the necessary measures to respect European law. It was about time since European data protection laws exist since 1995. It took the European Court of Justice (ECJ) to say so. The right to be forgotten and the right to free information are not foes but friends.”
ACER (Agency For The Cooperation Of Energy Regulator)
ACER Annual Conference: Implementing REMIT can save millions of euros to EU consumers
“As EU energy markets continue to integrate, it is important that customers can be confident that the prices they pay are not unduly distorted, but that they reflect the proper interplay of demand and supply” said EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger in his address to the Annual Conference of the EU Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER), held today in Ljubljana. This is the aim of REMIT, the EU Regulation on wholesale energy markets integrity and transparency, which establishes a new, unprecedented, sector-specific market monitoring framework to detect and prevent market abuse in European wholesale energy markets, where energy should be tr
ACER welcomes the successful coupling of the day-ahead markets of Portugal and Spain with the North-West European region
The organised electricity markets (power exchanges) in Portugal and Spain joined yesterday the day-ahead market coupling of the North-West Europe region, which took place last February. With this development, power exchanges covering 17 European countries are fully interlinked. The current market coupling between Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden will enhance further the development of the single EU energy market by favouring price convergence, which fosters competition and therefore leads to a better choice of services and products for consumers.
EBA (European Banking Authority)
Highlights from the ESAs Joint Consumer Protection Day
Consumer and investor protection is a common statutory objective of the three European Supervisory Authorities (ESAs) – the European Banking Authority (EBA), the European Insurance and Occupational Pensions Authority (EIOPA) and the European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA). As part of delivering on this objective, and following the first Joint ESAs Consumer Protection Day last year in Paris, the ESAs organised the second Joint ESAs Consumer Protection Day on 4 June 2014 in London.
ESMA and EBA publish harmonised guidelines for handling consumer complaints across the EU
The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) and the European Banking Authority (EBA) published on 13 June their Joint Committee final Report on guidelines for handling consumer complaints in the securities and banking sectors. The document aims to increase market confidence and for the benefit of consumers and firms alike it will ensure a harmonised approach to handling complaints for all 28 EU Member States and across all financial services sectors.
EBA publishes report on comparability of risk weighted assets for residential mortgages
The European Banking Authority (EBA) published on 11 June a second report on the consistency of risk weighted assets (RWAs) in the residential mortgage portfolio. The report, which is part of a wider ongoing EBA work on comparability of RWAs, illustrates the findings of a so called “drill-down analysis”, an investigation on the extent to which the most commonly used risk drivers influence the variability in risk weights. Overall, the analysis confirmed that risk parameters, such as loan to value, are drivers of RWAs. However, there are differences in how the banks reflect such drivers in RWAs.
ESMA (European Securities and Market Authority)
The European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA) has issued a public notice censuring Standard & Poor’s Credit Market Services France SAS and Standard & Poor’s Credit Market Services Europe Limited (S&P) for breaches of Regulation 1060/2009 (CRA Regulation).
S&P, on 10 November 2011 at 15:57 CET, erroneously released to subscribers of its web-based Global Credit Portal (GCP) an email alert which stated in its header “France (Republic of) (Unsolicited Ratings): DOWNGRADE”, although S&P’s credit rating of France had not changed.
GCP is one of the methods used by S&P to disseminate its credit ratings and other financial information products. Among other services, it provides an email alert function that a subscriber can customise in order to receive alerts when certain information changes on GCP, e.g. in case S&P decides to change a credit rating on a particular issuer.
BEREC (Body Of European Regulators For Eletronic Communication)
BEREC has adopted a BEREC Opinion on Phase II investigation (EE/2014/1572 )
BEREC adopted a BEREC Opinion on Phase II investigation pursuant to Article 7a of Directive 2002/21/EC as amended by Directive 2009/140/EC on 22 May 2014.
On 7 April 2014 the European Commission informed the Estonian Regulatory Authority, Estonian Competition Authority (ECA) and BEREC about its serious doubts considering in particular that a draft measure concerning remedies in the market for call termination on individual public telephone networks provided at a fixed location in Estonia would create a barrier to the internal market.
BEREC publishes its views on the European Parliament first reading legislative resolution on the European Commission’s proposal for a Connected Continent Regulation
BEREC has published a Statement on European Parliament’s vote on Telecoms legislative proposals
BEREC particularly welcomes the European Parliament’s recognition of the need for a broad, careful and comprehensive assessment of the European regulatory framework during the next Commission term. Furthermore, BEREC appreciates the proposed removal of some of the complex regulatory processes which had been tabled by the European Commission, the deletion of some of the Commission’s proposals on grounds of subsidiarity and proportionality and the suggested increased consistency in the regulatory tasks of the national regulators.
Council conclusions on “Energy prices and costs, protection of vulnerable consumers and competitiveness”
On 13 June, the Council adopted conclusions on energy prices and costs, the protection of vulnerable consumers and competitiveness (10225/14).
The conclusions are based on the Commission’s communication on energy prices and costs in Europe (5599/1/14 REV 1), presented in January 2014 in response to a request by the European Council of May 2013 (EUCO 75/1/2013, page 5). The communication provides an in-depth analysis of European energy prices, costs and competitiveness. A policy debate held by ministers on the same topic at the March Energy Council was also considered in the conclusions.
3318th transport, telecommunication and Energy Council Meeting
On 5 and 6 June, The Council took note of the state of play regarding a proposal aimed at amending the EU telecommunications regulatory framework. The draft regulation is part of the Connected Continent package. The objective of the proposal (13555/13) is to move towards a single market for electronic communications in which: (i) citizens and businesses can use electronic communications services across the EU without cross-border restrictions or unjustified additional costs, (ii) companies providing electronic communications networks and services can operate regardless of where they are established or where their customers are located in the EU.
The main elements of the proposal include: a single EU authorisation for electronic communications providers; coordination of the use of radio spectrum and provisions on European virtual access products; harmonised rights of end-users, including net neutrality; making it easier to switch provider; and provisions concerning the powers of national regulators, roaming and the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications (BEREC).
Better enforcing posted workers’ rights
Workers posted abroad temporarily to provide services would be better protected by a draft law already informally agreed with the Council, and endorsed by Parliament on 16 April. Parliament’s negotiators strengthened the draft by clarifying the rules to distinguish genuine posting from attempts to circumvent the law but also gave EU member states some flexibility to carry out checks. Building industry contractors and subcontractors would be jointly and severally liable for abuses of labour law.
MEPs vote laws to regulate financial markets and curb high-frequency trading
Comprehensive rules to govern financial markets were adopted by Parliament on 15 April. These rules are designed to close loopholes in the existing legislation, so as to ensure that financial markets are safer as well as more efficient, investors are better protected, high-frequency trading is regulated and speculative commodity trading is curbed.
Small investors to be shielded against reckless risk taking by investment funds
Small investors will be better protected against investment funds that take excessive or unnecessary risks with their money, under rules approved by Parliament on 15 April. These rules clarify who is liable for mismanagement of funds and tailor fund managers’ remuneration rules to encourage them to take reasonable risks and a long-run view.
Basic bank accounts for all
Anyone legally residing in the EU would have the right to open a basic payment account, and no-one could be denied this right on grounds of nationality or place of residence, under a new law passed by Parliament on Tuesday. This law should also ensure that fees and rules for all payment accounts are transparent and comparable and make it easy to switch to another payment account that offers better terms.
Ensure open access for internet service suppliers and ban roaming fees, say MEPs
Internet access providers would be barred from blocking or slowing down selected services for economic or other reasons by the latest draft EU “telecoms package” legislation voted by Parliament on 03 April. MEPs also voted to ban “roaming” charges for using a mobile phone in another EU country, as of from 15 December 2015.
Powering up: the energy challenges facing Europe
Securing energy supplies at affordable prices, improving energy efficiency and reducing harmful emissions will be high on the agenda of the European Parliament for the coming months and years. These issues will also be discussed at the Council summit in Ypres and Brussels on 26-27 June during a week dedicated to sustainable energy and marked by hundreds of events throughout Europe.
Bank card charges: “Consumers will save hundreds of millions or even billions of euros”
The fees that banks charge for processing consumers’ payments in the EU could be capped at 0.3% of the transaction value for credit card transactions and at a maximum of seven euro cents for debit cards, under a proposal being voted on by MEPs on Thursday 3 April. Pablo Zalba, a Spanish member of the EPP group, who is responsible for steering the plans through Parliament, told us more about the benefits.
Connecting the continent: how Parliament could make electronic communication much easier
Electronic communication in Europe could become significantly cheaper and more efficient, under rules to be voted on by MEPs on 3 April. Internet providers would no longer be able to block or slow down internet services provided by their competitors and “roaming charges” for using your phone in another EU country would be abolished starting from 15 December 2015.
EUROPEAN RESEARCH COUNCIL
Top scientists to decide who governs the European Research Council
Demand for ERC Starting Grants stabilises
Independence should remain on EFSA’s menu
“Ensuring that Europe’s food is safe”. As a consumer protection organisation, we could not agree more with EFSA’s founding motto.
However, the external scientific opinions on which EFSA relies to assess safety and risk must put consumers’ health first and be shielded from any undue influence. Such independence is vital if we want consumers to trust what is on their plates again.
Collective switching for better energy deals
There is a growing pattern emerging in Europe. It is helping consumers to reduce their energy bills and shake up market provision. This is the pattern of ‘collective switching’ and a large number of consumers joining forces to move energy suppliers for better, cheaper offers.
In 9 collective switching campaigns organised by BEUC members, almost 3 million consumers signed up and those who switched saved an estimated €135 million. Overall savings are even higher. This is because collective switching campaigns often trigger improved offers and conditions by energy companies to regain market share for switching-prone consumers.
Commission closes energy retail market consultation
The emergence of new technologies (e.g. smart meters) and alternative forms of energy generation (e.g. self-generation) impact on the role of consumers in the market. BEUC’s response to the European Commission public consultation highlighted what is needed to achieve a well-functioning energy market and providing energy which is affordable, accessible and available to all.
Missed opportunity for collective consumer damages claims
Today the European Parliament has voted to adopt the legislation that is the Private Damages Actions Directive.
This legislation, once in force, will make it easier for claimants to go to court for the compensation for damages resulting from competition infringements, a step we welcome. The directive will introduce some uniform rules making access to evidence or burden of proof issues more predictable. Unfortunately, it is difficult to say whether the new rules will have any practical impact on the (lack of) consumer claims, as it fails to introduce collective redress procedures, crucial for consumer redress.
Open Internet/Telecoms joint statement – BEUC, civil society & online content industry
Brussels 1.04.2014 – The online communications industry, consumer protection and civil rights NGOs want to preserve the open internet.
We are gravely concerned about loopholes in the Commission and Industry Committee texts that would allow parts of the telecommunications industry to become gatekeepers that decide what succeeds and what fails online. Even national regulators (through BEREC, the Body of European Regulators) have expressed a fear that the Commission’s proposals seek to re-shape the market in favour of large ex-monopoly telecoms operators.
Ireland: New Competition and Consumer Protection Bill merges Consumer Agency and Competition Authority
On 31 March 2014, a new Competition and Consumer Bill was published by the Irish Government. It will provide for the merger of the National Consumer Agency and Competition Authority, improvements in the competition law; the regulation of certain practices in the grocery goods sector and the modernisation of the law on media mergers.
United Kingdom: Competition and Markets Authority starts Work
On 1 April 2014, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) started work as the UK’s primary competition and consumer agency: bringing together the Competition Commission (CC) with the competition and certain consumer functions of the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), the CMA has a range of new responsibilities and powers to ensure it meets its mission of making markets works well fro consuemrs, business and economy.
Germany: : Standard Fees for Electronic Cash Card Payment System abandoned
On 8 April 2014, the Bundeskartellamt (BKartA) adopted a decision which declares binding the commitments of the leading banking associations in Germany to abandon their agreement on standard fees payable by retailers when using the electronic cash card payment system.