EU/Competition: Transport and Shipping

Newsletter 10/2020

Sector specific updates
Antitrust: Commission fines car parts suppliers EUR 18 million in cartel settlement

The Commission fined 29.09.20 Brose and Kiekert a total of EUR 18 million for taking part in two cartels concerning supplies of closure systems for cars in the EEA. Magna was not fined as it revealed both cartels to the Commission. Magna, based in Canada and Brose, based in Germany took part in a bilateral cartel concerning supplies of door modules and window regulators for a certain car model of Daimler group. Magna and Kiekert,  based in Germany, took part in a separate bilateral cartel concerning supplies of latches and strikers to BMW group and Daimler group. All three companies acknowledged their involvement in the cartels and agreed to settle the case. Visit the case dossier here.

EP: Shipping should be included in the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS)

The European Parliament adopted 16.09.20 its position on the Commission’s proposal to revise the EU system for monitoring, reporting and verifying CO2 emissions from maritime transport (the “EU MRV Regulation”). The EP largely agrees that reporting obligations by the EU and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) should be aligned, as proposed by the Commission. They note, however, that the IMO has made insufficient progress in reaching an ambitious global agreement on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. They ask the Commission to examine the overall environmental integrity of the measures decided by the IMO, including the targets under the Paris Agreement. The EP wants maritime transport to be more ambitious and believes ships of 5000 gross tonnage and above should be included in the EU Emissions Trading System (ETS). However, MEPs said that market-based emissions reduction policies are not enough and request that shipping companies reduce their annual average CO2 emissions per transport unit for all their ships by at least 40% by 2030. The EP called for an “Ocean Fund” for the period from 2022 to 2030, financed by revenues from auctioning allowances under the ETS, to make ships more energy-efficient and to support investment in innovative technologies and infrastructure, such as alternative fuel and green ports. 20 % of the revenues under the Fund should be used to contribute to protecting, restoring and efficiently managing marine ecosystems impacted by global warming. Visit the EP procedure file here.

General updates
Antitrust: Commission publishes findings of the evaluation of the Vertical Block Exemption Regulation

The Commission published 08.09.20 a Staff Working Document that summarises the findings of the evaluation of the Vertical Block Exemption Regulation (“VBER”), together with the Vertical Guidelines. The evaluation show that the market has changed significantly since the adoption of the VBER and the Vertical Guidelines, in particular due to the growth of online sales and of new market players such as online platforms. These developments have led to a number of changes in distribution models, such as increased direct sales by suppliers and a greater use of selective distribution systems, which allow suppliers a tighter control over resale conditions. Similarly, new types of vertical restrictions, such as restrictions regarding sales through online marketplaces and restrictions on online advertising, as well as retail parity clauses, have become more widespread. Against this backdrop, the evaluation has identified a number of issues with regard to the functioning of the rules. These include the following: (i) Some provisions lack clarity, such as the rules defining agency agreements. (ii) Other provisions are difficult to apply or are no longer adapted to the current business environment, notably when it comes to applying the existing rules to new market players that do not fit into traditional supply and distribution concepts and to new online sales restrictions. (iii) Some gaps are identified in the rules, such as a lack of guidance on how to assess retail parity clauses or restrictions on the use of price comparison websites, and areas that do not refer to case law issued since the adoption of the rules (e.g. the EUCJ’s Coty judgment C-230/16). (iv) There remains significant scope for diverging interpretations of the rules by national competition authorities and national courts, which is an important issue of concern for stakeholders, as it reduces the benefit of the rules. (v) While the evidence suggests that the lists of hardcore restrictions and excluded restrictions are generally appropriate, there may still be scope to further reduce the burden for businesses associated with self-assessing the compatibility of their agreements with Article 101 TFEU / Article 53 EEA. This could be achieved by exempting, in some specific areas of the rules, additional vertical agreements for which stakeholders have indicated that they would normally satisfy the conditions of Article 101(3) TFEU / Article 53 (3) EEA. There is also room for simplification and further cost reduction, notably by reducing the complexity of the rules. Visit DG COMPs dedicated VBER review website here.

GDPR: Third country transfer – to the U.S.

In the EUCJ Schrems II judgment (C-311/18) the court indicated that companies relying on SCCs are responsible for determining whether the recipient country’s law concerning government access to data provides privacy protections meeting EEA legal standards. The EUCJ in Schrems II also invalidated Commission Decision 2016/1250 underlying the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield. The Court found that the Commission’s record underlying Decision 2016/1250 did not establish that privacy protections in U.S. law relating to intelligence agencies’ access to data meet EEA legal standards. Notwithstanding this finding, companies transferring data to the United States under SCCs today are responsible for undertaking their own independent analyses of all relevant and current U.S. law relating to intelligence agencies’ access to data, as well as the facts and circumstances of data transfers and any applicable safeguards, in assessing whether the transfers satisfy EEA law. The United States government has prepared a White Paper, focusing in particular on the issues that appear to have concerned the EUCJ in Schrems II, for consideration by companies transferring personal data from the EEA to the United States. The White Paper provides an up-to-date and contextualized discussion of this complex area of U.S. law and practice, as well as citations to source documents providing additional relevant information. It also provides some initial observations concerning the relevance of this area of U.S. law and practice that may bear on many companies’ analyses. The White Paper is not intended to provide companies guidance about EU law or what positions to take before European courts or regulators. Visit the white paper here.

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