Rapport annuel pour l’année 2013

Autorité de la concurrence

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At a time when, right up to the top of the State, the debate rages on the real or only presumed virtues of free competition, the French Competition Authority publishes, as it does every year, its annual report. In 2014, its activity will be in line with that of other years, even if there will be a fairly significant drop in the number of referrals and cases handled.

In the context of its litigation activity, it has mainly been involved in decisions condemning disparagement practices implemented by major pharmaceutical companies against generic drugs with the aim of hindering their progression (13-D-11; 13-D-21), and the decision condemning the exchange of information between pig slaughterers (13-D-03). In addition, the so-called "negotiated" procedures continue to progress. It is now accepted that leniency and non-contestation of grievances can usefully be combined (chemical commodities cartel). As to the commitment procedure, the Authority emphasises two decisions adopted in the interbank commission sector, which once again demonstrate the effectiveness of the procedure. The reading of this report shows that the Authority is not deaf to the criticism that is nowadays multiplying against the liberal competition model adopted in Europe. For example, with regard to merger control, President Lasserre, in his editorial, explains that the Authority has been able to modernise its techniques for evaluating operations, sometimes making them more flexible. For example, it has authorised the acquisition of Monoprix by the Casino group, in a highly concentrated sector (13-DCC-90). In this area, 2013 will be marked above all by the revision of the merger control guidelines.

In its report, the Authority emphasises the significant development of its advisory activity. Two sectors in particular drew its attention: health (distribution of medicines) and transport (railway reform, coach transport, VTC and taxis).

This year, the Competition Authority is devoting its thematic study to local markets. The local market is defined as "a market in which substitutability between products can be observed only within a limited geographical area at least smaller than the national territory". This is an opportunity, first of all, to return to the work of delimiting the relevant geographic market. The Authority emphasises the difficulties inherent in this delimitation work when the size of the market is small. The frequent impossibility of resorting to the hypothetical monopolist test in such cases indeed makes the task more difficult. The study of the real origin of an operator’s customers - information gathered from customer files - is then indispensable. The Authority explains that, despite the ’local’ dimension of the market, the analysis is sometimes carried out on a wider scale, for example on a national scale. This is the case when it is on a national scale that all decisions are taken which determine the competitiveness of local outlets and the parameters of competition between them. This is also the case when it comes to interference from Internet sales, where the relevant market is necessarily national in size. Secondly, the Authority discusses the impact of this geographic delineation on its work of characterising practices. The report shows that the risk of harm to competition is higher in these markets. Since existing demand is lower than in a national market, the barriers to entry in terms of investment are higher. Moreover, as the number of operators is generally small, this promotes the opacity of these markets and thus the risk of coordination. The remedies advocated by the Authority are the same as those used in larger markets: sanctioning anti-competitive practices by means of structural injunctions where necessary; using commitments. The use of regulatory price-fixing power is a temptation that must be fought against; in the Authority’s view, competition law has the appropriate responses. One exception, however, is retail markets where the Authority continues to propose the creation of structural injunctions in the absence of any illegal practices.

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Anne-Sophie Choné-Grimaldi, Rapport annuel pour l’année 2013, December 2014, Concurrences N° 4-2014, Art. N° 69273, pp. 284-288

Publisher La Documentation française

Date 1 December 2014

Number of pages 522

ISBN  978-2-11-009758-3

Visites 517

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