Applying the rules
The Commission continued to attach high priority to the detection, investigation and sanctioning of cartels, focusing on significant hard-core cartels, in particular those with European or worldwide scope. The Commission issued eight final Decisions5 in which it fined 416 undertakings a total of EUR 3 334 million (compared with seven final Decisions, 417 undertakings fined and a total of EUR 1 846 million in 2006). In Elevators and Escalators the Commission imposed the highest fine per cartel case to date (EUR 992 million) as well as the highest fine per undertaking for a cartel violation (EUR 477 million8).
The Commission has been able to detect a number of cartels on its own initiative. The recent cases of Elevators and Escalators, Fasteners, Professional Videotape and Flat Glass demonstrate that, although the Commission's leniency policy is an effective tool in detecting cartels, the Commission is not dependant on evidence provided by leniency applicants to uncover cartel behaviour. The Commission continues to place considerable weight on such ex officio investigations which may result from market monitoring, sector enquiries, complaints and via national competition authorities in the European Competition Network.
The Commission followed up on the sector inquiry into financial services launched in 2005 through prohibition Decisions under Article 81 EC in Groupement des Cartes Bancaires, Morgan Stanley/Visa and MasterCard, with all these cases concerning payment card systems (see 2.2. below).
The Commission continued to sanction abuses of dominance, not least in network industries which are key for European competitiveness. On 4 July, the Commission adopted a Decision against the Spanish incumbent telecoms operator Telefónica for a very serious abuse of its dominant position in the Spanish broadband market. The fine imposed amounted to EUR 151 875 000. The conduct concerned a margin squeeze by Telefónica between the wholesale prices it charged to competitors and the retail prices it charged to its own customers from 2001 to 2006.
On 11 October the Commission adopted an Article 9 Decision concerning the long- term gas supply contracts concluded by Distrigas in Belgium. Under this Decision, the Commission renders legally binding until 2011 a set of commitments offered by Distrigas to address concerns raised by the Commission in the course of an investigation under Article 82. The effect of these commitments is to ensure that Distrigas does not tie an excessive proportion of customers for more than one year
Case COMP/38.899, Gas Insulated Switchgear, Commission Decision 24.1.2007; Case COMP/38.823, Elevators and Escalators, Commission Decision 21.2.2007; Case COMP/37.766, Netherlands Beer, Commission decision 18.4.2007; Case COMP/39.168, Hard Haberdashery:Fasteners, Commission Decision 19.9.2007; Case COMP/38.710, Bitumen Spain, Commission Decision 3.10.2007; Case COMP/38.432, Professional Videotapes, Commission Decision 20.11.2007; Case COMP/39.165, Flat Glass, Commission Decision 28.11.2007; Case COMP/38.629, Chloroprene Rubber, Commission Decision 5.12.2007. This figure does not include the companies that received immunity from fines for cooperating under the Leniency Notice. This figure includes two undertakings where Decisions have been readopted. Imposed on the ThyssenKrupp group.