Swiss Competition Report - Reporting Period : January 04 - March 04

 
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Reporting Period: January 04 - March 04

This section reviews developments concerning the Federal Act of October 6, 1995 on Cartels and Other Restraints of Competition (the "Competition Act"), which is enforced by the Federal Competition Commission ("FCC"). Appeals against decisions of the FCC are heard by the Appeal Commission for Competition Matters (the "Appeal Commission").

LEGISLATIVE DEVELOPMENTS

Amendment to Competition Act / Annual Report of the FCC. On March 30, 2004, the FCC held its annual press conference and published its annual report. The main topic of the press conference was the coming into force on April 1, 2004 of the amendment to the Competition Act.The amended Competition Act entitles the FCC to impose direct sanctions (fines up to 10% of the turnover in Switzerland over the last three financial years) on undertakings that participate in "hardcore" vertical or horizontal cartels or abuse their dominant position. Fines sanction (i) horizontal agreements providing for price-fixing, market sharing or quantity restrictions which eliminate or significantly reduce competition without economic justification, and (ii) vertical agreements providing for price-fixing or territorial exclusivity with prohibition of passive sales which eliminate or significantly reduce competition without economic justification. The undertakings are offered until March 31, 2005, a possibility to avoid fines by either notifying the FCC of a restriction in which they participate or terminating the restriction. Another significant change brought by the amendment is the application of the Competition Act to any restriction to parallel imports irrespective of whether such restriction is based on intellectual property.

Amendment to the Air Traffic Act. As a result of an amendment to the Air Traffic Act, the FCC is competent to investigate whether state aid in the airline sector complies with the EU Regulations. This amendment is based on a bilateral agreement on air traffic between Switzerland and the EU in force as of June 1, 2002.

ADMINISTRATIVE AND JUDICIAL DECISIONS

Merger Control

Newspapers

On January 19, 2004, the FCC prohibited the purchase by Berner Zeitung of a 17,5 % shareholding in the share capital of 20 Minuten (Suisse) AG, which is one of the main competitors of Berner Zeitung in the Bern area. After a four-month investigation, the FCC concluded that such purchase would create a dominant position of Groupe Espace Media (to which...

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