On July 9, 2020, the Commission published its annual report on competition policy, setting out the Commission’s main policy and legislative initiatives, as well as key decisions adopted in 2019.[1]

In antitrust enforcement, the Commission imposed a fine of EUR 1.49 billion on Google for abuse of dominance in the market for the brokering of online search advertisement,[2] and of EUR 242 million on Qualcomm for abuse of dominance in the worldwide market for chipsets complying with the Universal Mobile Telecommunications System.[3]

In cartels, the Commission fined Mastercard EUR 570 million for obstructing merchants’ access to cross-border card payment services[4] and Autoliv and TRW EUR 368 million for their involvement in two cartels for the supply of car seatbelts, airbags, and steering wheels.[5] The Commission also scrutinised several cases of licensees being prevented from selling licensed products in a different country, resulting in EUR 12.5 and EUR 6.2 million fines for Nike and Sanrio respectively.[6] The Commission also highlighted its new “eLeniency” online tool launched in March 2019, which allows for the online submission of leniency statement, noting that it had already “received a high number of statements and documents.”[7]

In mergers, the Commission conducted 16 in-depth investigations in 2019. Those investigations resulted in the prohibition of three transactions: Siemens’ proposed merger with Alstom;[8] Wieland’s proposed acquisition of Aurubis Rolled Products and Aurubis’ stake in Schwermetall;[9] and the proposed joint venture between Tata Steel and ThyssenKrupp.[10] In this context, the Commission recalled that over the past ten years, it had “only blocked ten mergers.”[11]

In addition, the Commission highlighted its “significant efforts to enforce procedural obligations under the EU Merger Regulation.”[12] These included the imposition of a EUR 52 million fine on General Electric for providing incorrect information during the Commission’s review of its acquisition of LM Wind,[13] as well as a EUR 28 million fine on Canon for partially implementing its acquisition of Toshiba Medical Systems Corporation before notification and approval by the Commission.[14]

Finally, in 2019, the Commission launched several evaluations of current competition rules and guidelines to ensure that they remain fit for purpose. The Commission’s review encompasses State aid rules (the State aid modernization package, railway guidelines, and short-term export credit insurance communication),[15] as well as EU rules exempting certain horizontal agreements from general competition rules (block exemption regulations for horizontal cooperation agreements for certain research and development and specialization agreements, and related guidelines).[16]

[1]      Report of the European Commission to the European Parliament, the Council, the European Economic and Social Committee and the Committee of the Regions, Report on Competition Policy 2019, SWD(2020) 126 final (“the Report”), available at https://ec.europa.eu/competition/publications/annual_ report/2019/part1_en.pdf.

[2]      Google Search (AdSense) (Case AT.40411), Commission decision of March 20, 2019.

[3]      Qualcomm (predation (Case AT.39711), Commission decision of July 18, 2019.

[4]      MasterCard II (Case AT.40049), Commission decision of January 22, 2019.

[5]      Occupants Safety Systems II (Case AT.40481), Commission decision of March 5, 2019.

[6]      Licensed Merchandise – Nike (Case AT.40436), Commission decision of March 25, 2019; Licensed Merchandise – Sanrio (Case AT.40432), Commission decision of July 9, 2019. On May 13, 2019, the Commission also fined Anheuser-Busch InBev NV/SA €200.4 million for restricting sales of beer across neighboring EU Member States. AB InBev Beer Trade Restrictions (Case AT.40134), Commission decision of May 13, 2019.

[7]      The Report, p. 5.

[8]      Siemens/Alstom (Case COMP/M.8677), Commission decision of February 6, 2019.

[9]      Wieland/Aurubis Rolled Products/Schwermetal (Case COMP/M.8900), Commission decision of February 6, 2019.

[10]    Tata Steel/Thyssenkrupp/JV (Case COMP/M.8713), Commission decision of June 11, 2019.

[11]    The Report, p. 14.

[12]    Ibid., p. 5.

[13]    General Electric Company/LM Wind Power Holding (Case COMP/M.8436), Commission decision of April 8, 2019.

[14]    Canon/Toshiba Medical Systems Corporation (Case COMP/M.8179), Commission decision of June 27, 2019.

[15]    The Report, p. 3.

[16]    Commission Regulation No. 1217/2010 of December 14, 2010 on the application of Article 101(3) of the Treaty on the functioning of the European Union to categories of research and development agreements, OJ L 335; Commission Regulation No. 1218/2010 of December 14, 2010 on the application of Article 101(3) of the Treaty to categories of specialisation agreements, OJ L 335.