European Commission - Press release
Antitrust: Commission opens proceedings against two manufacturers of refrigerants used in car air conditioning
Brussels, 16 December 2011 - The European Commission has opened antitrust proceedings concerning agreements between Honeywell and DuPont for the development of a new refrigerant for air conditioning systems in cars. It is also investigating whether Honeywell may hold and abuse a dominant position over the refrigerant that has been announced as a suitable replacement for the existing global refrigerant, which no longer meets environmental-protection standards. The opening of proceedings means that the Commission will examine the case as a matter of priority. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.
A new refrigerant known as 1234yf, which is intended for use in future car air conditioning systems, was announced as a suitable global replacement for the previous refrigerant R134a, which does not meet new EU rules1 as regards its global warming potential. The selection of 1234yf is the result of a process conducted under the auspices of the Society of Automotive Engineers, which represents the interests of all groups involved in the automotive sector.
The Commission is investigating complaints alleging that Honeywell International Inc. and E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company have entered into anti-competitive arrangements as regards the development of the new generation of refrigerants. Specifically, the Commission will investigate whether joint development, licensing and production arrangements entered into between the two companies in relation to these refrigerants restrict competition on the markets. Such behaviour may infringe Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU and Article 53 of the EEA Agreement.
The Commission is also examining whether Honeywell engaged in deceptive conduct during the evaluation of 1234yf between 2007 and 2009. It is claimed that Honeywell did not disclose its patents and patent applications while the refrigerant was being assessed and then failed to grant licences on fair and reasonable (so called "FRAND") terms. Such behaviour may also infringe European competition rules (Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU and Article 54 of the EEA Agreement).
This investigation highlights the importance of ensuring that arrangements involving IP contribute to innovation rather than holding it back.
Article 101 of the TFEU prohibits agreements and concerted practices which may affect trade and prevent or restrict competition. Article 102 of the TFEU prohibits the abuse of a dominant market position. The implementation of these provisions is defined in the Antitrust Regulation (Council Regulation No 1/2003) which can be applied by the Commission and by the national competition authorities of EU Member States.
The legal basis for this procedural step is Article 11(6) of the Antitrust Regulation.
Article 11(6) of the Antitrust Regulation provides that the initiation of proceedings relieves the competition authorities of the Member States of their authority to apply the competition rules laid down in Articles 101 and 102 of the TFEU. Moreover, Article 16(1) of the same Regulation provides that national courts must avoid giving decisions which would conflict with a decision contemplated by the Commission in proceedings that it has initiated.
The Commission has informed the companies and the Member States' competition authorities that it has formally opened proceedings in this case.
Information on the case will be available at:
Amelia Torres (+32 2 295 46 29)
Marisa Gonzalez Iglesias (+32 2 295 19 25)