Brussels, 3 December 2012
Antitrust: Commission opens proceedings against Bulgarian Energy Holding
The European Commission has opened formal proceedings to investigate whether Bulgarian Energy Holding may be abusing its dominant market position in the wholesale electricity market in Bulgaria. The Commission has concerns that Bulgarian Energy Holding might be hindering competition on wholesale electricity markets in Bulgaria and neighbouring Member States through territorial restrictions. Such behaviour would breach EU antitrust rules. An opening of proceedings does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation; it only means that the Commission will treat the case as a matter of priority.
The Commission is investigating certain provisions in electricity supply agreements entered into by subsidiaries of Bulgarian Energy Holding. These provisions may restrict their trading partners' freedom to deliver electricity purchased from Bulgarian Energy Holding by prescribing where the electricity has to be delivered. According to these provisions, electricity supplied by BEH may for example be resold only within Bulgaria and not exported.
These contractual provisions may constitute territorial restrictions and have the effect of distorting the allocation of electricity within the Single Market and partitioning electricity markets along national lines. Such a practice would both hinder competition and undermine the integration of EU electricity markets.
Article 102 TFEU prohibits the abuse of a dominant market position which may affect trade between Member States. The implementation of this provision 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.
Article 11(6) of the Antitrust Regulation provides that the initiation of proceedings by the Commission relieves the competition authorities of the Member States of their competence to also apply EU competition rules to the practices concerned. 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 it has initiated.
The Commission has informed Bulgarian Energy Holding EAD and the Bulgarian competition authority that it has opened proceedings in this case.
There is no legal deadline to complete inquiries into anti-competitive conduct. The duration of an antitrust investigation depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of the case, the extent to which the undertaking concerned cooperates with the Commission and the exercise of the rights of defence.
More information on this investigation will be available in the Commission's public case register under the case number 39767 BEH electricity.