Brussels, 6 March 2013
Antitrust: Commission opens formal proceedings against the Lithuanian railway incumbent, AB Lietuvos geležinkeliai
The European Commission has opened formal antitrust proceedings against the Lithuanian railway incumbent AB Lietuvos geležinkeliai ("LG") to investigate whether it limited competition on the rail markets in Lithuania and Latvia by removing a railway track, in breach of EU antitrust rules that prohibit the abuse of dominant market positions. The removal of this track could have prevented customers from using the services of other rail operators for the transport of freight between Lithuania and Latvia. The opening of proceedings does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation; it means that the Commission will treat the case as a matter of priority.
In September 2008, LG suspended traffic on a railway track running between Lithuania and Latvia. One month later LG dismantled the track. Since then the track has not been rebuilt. This limits the number of rail connections between Lithuania and Latvia for international freight traffic. These actions could limit competition on the rail markets in Lithuania and in Latvia, in particular by preventing customers from redirecting their railway freight to Latvia using the services of other rail operators.
Following a complaint, the Commission carried out inspections at the premises of LG in 2011 (see MEMO/11/152). The Commission's investigation will now focus on the removal of the railway track and LG's subsequent conduct.
Article 102 TFEU prohibits the abuse of a dominant position which may affect trade and prevent or restrict competition. The Antitrust Regulation (Council Regulation No 1/2003) sets out how the Commission and the national competition authorities apply this provision.
Article 11(6) of the Antitrust Regulation provides that once the Commission has opened proceedings the national competition authorities can no longer apply the EU competition rules to the practices concerned. Moreover, national courts must not take any decision which would conflict with a decision envisaged by the Commission in the context of open proceedings.
There is no legal deadline bringing an antitrust investigation to an end. The duration of an investigation depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of the case, the cooperation of the undertaking with the Commission and the exercise of the rights of defence.
The Commission has informed LG and the competition authorities of Lithuania and Latvia that it has opened proceedings in this case.
More information on the investigation will be available in the Commission's public case register under the case number AT.39813.