In the antitrust area the Commission has — in close cooperation with National Competition Authorities (NCA)45 focused on foreclosure and collusion (market sharing) cases in the electricity and gas sectors that address the main areas of market malfunctioning. The foreclosure cases cover practices along the value chain, including foreclosure of downstream markets by long-term contracts with energy consumers; abusive practices to foreclose competitors from accessing networks (e.g. hoarding of network capacity and failure to invest); foreclosure of electricity retail markets by raising rivals’ costs through the balancing system46; foreclosure of downstream markets through the control of gas import infrastructure and long-term gas procurement agreements. Other issues investigated include, for example, allegations of price manipulations on electricity markets through withdrawal of capacity by generators. In Italy47, Spain48 and France, the Commission has found indications that regulated electricity tariffs could amount to State aid to large and medium-sized electricity consuming companies.
On 10 January the European Commission published the Final Report of its sector inquiry into European retail banking markets49 covering payment cards and (non- card) payment systems and current accounts and related services. The findings confirmed that markets remain fragmented along national lines, limiting consumer choice and leading to higher costs for current accounts, loans or payments. High degrees of variation of prices, profit margins and selling patterns between Member States and high degrees of homogeneity within Member States were found to be indicative of persisting regulatory or behavioural barriers to competition.
The European payment card industry channels flows of EUR 1 350 billion per year, generating an estimated EUR 25 billion in fees for banks. The payment card industry is highly concentrated, entailing high fees and profitability. The rules governing the networks (including the Visa/MasterCard duopoly and national card schemes run by the main domestic banks) raise competition problems
On 3 October the Commission fined Visa International and Visa Europe (Visa) EUR 10.2 million for refusing to admit Morgan Stanley as a member from March 2000 to September 200650.
In a Decision of 17 October the Commission concluded that the Groupement des Cartes Bancaires (CB) infringed Article 81 of the Treaty51. The Commission found that the Groupement had adopted price measures hindering the issuing of cards in
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A dedicated subgroup for energy has been set up as part of the cooperation within the European Competition Network (ECN). During 2007 this subgroup addressed national experiences in relation to competition case remedies. The balancing system serves to ensure that injections and withdrawals on the network are identical, in order to keep the system in equilibrium. Decision of 20 November in State aid case C36/A/2006, not yet published in OJ, but available on the Internet site http://ec.europa.eu/comm/competition/state_aid/register/ Concerning France, see Decision of 13.6.2007 in State aid case C17/2007, OJ C 164 of 18.7.2007, p. 9 and concerning Spain, see Decision of 24.1.2007 in State aid case C3/2007, OJ C 43, 27.2.2007, p. 9. IP/07/114, 31.1.2007 and MEMO/07/40, 31.1.2007. Case COMP/37.860. h t t p : / / e c . e u r o p a . e u / c o m m / c o m p e t i t i o n / a n t i t r u s t / c a s e s / d e c i s i o n s / 3 8 6 0 6 / d e c _ e n . p d f