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IP/09/1097

Brussels, 8 th July 2009

Antitrust: Commission market tests commitments by GDF Suez to boost competition in French gas market

The European Commission is inviting comments from interested parties on commitments offered by the French energy company GDF Suez to remedy concerns that it might have infringed EC Treaty rules on abuse of a dominant market position (Article 82) in the gas sector. The Commission was concerned in particular that GDF Suez might be closing off competitors from access to gas import capacity into France. Whilst not acknowledging any infringement, GDF Suez proposed to address the Commission's concerns through a major structural reduction in its long-term reservations of gas import capacity into France. The Commission has reviewed the commitments in close cooperation with the French energy regulator. The Commission invites interested parties to present their comments on the commitments offered by GDF Suez within two months of the publication in the EU Official Journal (on 9 th July). Should the market test indicate that GDF Suez's proposals remedy the Commission's competition concerns, the Commission may adopt a decision under Article 9 of Regulation 1/2003 making the commitments legally binding on GDF Suez.

Competition Commissioner Neelie Kroes commented: “The proposed commitments could make it easier for would-be competitors to enter the French gas market and so contribute to delivering the benefits of the Single Market to French energy consumers in terms of greater choice of gas supplier and more competition on prices."

New entrants into gas markets require access to gas import infrastructure (such as pipelines and liquefied natural gas terminals). Insufficient access to infrastructure limits their ability to acquire customers, no matter how competitive their offers may be. Preventing new entrants from gaining access to infrastructure can therefore hinder the development of competition in energy markets.

The Commission's preliminary investigation found that GDF Suez had long-term reservations for most of France's gas import capacity, thereby largely closing off access to the French gas market to other potential gas suppliers. Under the proposed commitments, GDF Suez would immediately release a large share of its long-term reservations of gas import capacity into France, and would then continue to reduce its share of these reservations to below 50%. These commitments could have a major structural impact on the possibility for other companies to compete on the French market, to the benefit of domestic and industrial gas consumers.

The Commission welcomes the proposed commitments in as far as they could provide a solution for the concerns identified in its preliminary assessment of GDF Suez's behaviour

A summary of the proposed commitments will be published in the EU's Official Journal on 9 July 2009 (2009 C 156), and a full non-confidential version will be available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/competition/antitrust/cases/index/by_nr_78.html#i39_316 .

The Commission invites interested parties to present their comments on the commitments offered by GDF Suez within two months of the publication in the EU Official Journal. If the market test confirms that the commitments are a satisfactory solution, the Commission may adopt a so-called commitment decision under Article 9 of Regulation 1/2003, making the commitments legally binding on GDF Suez. Such an Article 9 decision would find that there are no longer grounds for action by the Commission, without concluding whether or not there has been or still is an infringement of EC antitrust rules. However, if commitments given in the context of such a decision were not complied with, the Commission could impose a fine of up to 10% of total worldwide turnover, without having to take a final decision as to whether or not the EC antitrust rules had been infringed.

In a separate case, the Commission has imposed fines on GDF Suez and on the German E.ON group for participating in a market-sharing agreement in the French and German gas markets (see IP/09/1099 ).

The proceedings against Gaz de France are not part of the energy sector competition inquiry, on which the final report was presented on 10 th January 2007 (see IP/07/26 and MEMO/07/15 ). However, the energy sector inquiry has allowed the Commission to gain an in-depth understanding on the functioning, and in some respects mal-functioning, of the energy sector, which is of key importance for the overall competitiveness of the European economy. The knowledge acquired during the sector inquiry has allowed the Commission to draw conclusions as regards where Commission investigations based on competition law could be appropriate and effective with a view to ensuring that consumers in all Member States can benefit from competitive energy markets.


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