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IP/09/898

Brussels, 10 th June 2009

Antitrust: Commission market tests commitments proposed by IACS concerning ship classification market

The European Commission has invited comments from interested parties on commitments offered by the International Association of Classification Societies (IACS) to meet concerns that it may have infringed Article 81 of the EC Treaty and Article 53 of the EEA Agreement, prohibiting restrictive business practices. The Commission's concerns relate to the ship classification market, in particular that IACS might have prevented classification societies which are not members of IACS from joining, from participation in IACS' technical working groups and from access to technical background documents (see MEMO/08/65 ). To address these concerns, IACS has proposed a series of commitments, including the establishment of qualitative membership criteria and guidance for their application, the possibility for non-IACS classification societies to participate in ICAS' working groups and full access to IACS' technical resolutions and related background documents. A summary of the proposed commitments has been published in the EU Official Journal ( OJ C 131 of 10 June 2009) and the full non-confidential version of the proposed commitments is available on the Europa website. Interested parties can submit comments within one month from the date of publication. If the result of the market test is positive, the Commission intends to adopt a decision under Article 9(1) of Regulation 1/2003, making the commitments legally binding on IACS.

Classification societies establish, apply and certify compliance with requirements, such as technical standards, in relation to the design, construction, maintenance and survey of ships, which are laid down in classification rules. The Commission began its investigation in the ship classification market with inspections in January 2008. The Commission had expressed concerns that IACS may have reduced the level of competition in the ship classification market, notably by preventing classification societies which are not already members of IACS from joining, from participation in IACS' technical working groups and from access to technical background documents relating to IACS' technical resolutions.

Following detailed discussions, IACS proposed commitments to address the Commission's concerns.

With regard to membership, IACS has offered to set up objective and transparent membership criteria and to apply them in a uniform and non-discriminatory manner. The proposed commitments foresee detailed rules, including clear deadlines, for the different steps of the membership application, suspension and withdrawal procedure.

With regard to IACS' technical working groups, which develop IACS' technical resolutions, IACS has committed itself to ensure that classification societies which are not members of IACS will nonetheless be able to participate.

In addition, all current and future IACS' resolutions and their related technical background documents will be put into the public domain at the same time and in the same way as they are made available to IACS members. IACS will also set up an Independent Appeal Board to settle possible disputes about access to, suspension or withdrawal of membership of IACS, participation in IACS' technical working groups and access to IACS' resolutions and to their technical background documents

The Commission invites interested parties to present their comments on the proposed commitments within one month of the publication in the EU Official Journal.

If the market test indicates that interested parties consider the proposed commitments to remove the Commission's concerns that IACS may have reduced the level of competition in the ship classification market, the Commission intends to adopt a commitments decision under Article 9(1) of Regulation 1/2003, which would render the commitments legally binding on IACS. Such a decision would find that there were no longer grounds for action by the Commission, without concluding whether or not there had been or still was an infringement of the EC/EEA antitrust rules. However, if commitments given in the context of such a decision are not complied with, the Commission may impose on the undertaking or association of undertakings concerned a fine of up to 10% of its total worldwide turnover without having to reach a final decision as to whether the EC/EEA antitrust rules have been infringed.

A summary of the Commission's concerns and the proposed commitments has been published in the EU's Official Journal ( OJ C 131 of 10 June 2009). The full non-confidential version of the proposed commitments is available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/competition/antitrust/cases/index/by_nr_78.html#i39_416


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