Brussels, 5 July 2013
Antitrust: Commission opens proceedings against Bulgarian Energy Holding and its subsidiaries Bulgargaz and Bulgartransgaz
The European Commission has opened formal proceedings to investigate whether Bulgarian Energy Holding (BEH), its gas supply subsidiary Bulgargaz and its gas infrastructure subsidiary Bulgartransgaz might be hindering competitors from accessing key gas infrastructures in Bulgaria, in breach of EU antitrust rules. An opening of proceedings does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.
The Commission has concerns that the Bulgarian energy incumbent BEH and its subsidiaries may be abusing their dominant market position on the natural gas markets in Bulgaria, in breach of Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).
In particular, the Commission has concerns that these companies may be preventing potential competitors from accessing the Bulgarian gas transmission network and the gas storage facility by explicitly or tacitly refusing or delaying access to third parties. In addition, these companies may be preventing competitors from accessing the main gas import pipeline by reserving capacity that is consistently not used, without releasing it on the market. Without access to this key infrastructure, it is impossible for any companies to compete with Bulgargaz on the Bulgarian gas supply markets.
Such practices, if established, restrict competition and may lead to less choice and worse gas supply conditions, ultimately to the harm of EU consumers.
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, Bulgartransgaz EAD and Bulgargaz EAD, as well as 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 on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register under the case number 39849 BEH gas. New antitrust decisions are listed in the weekly newsletter Competition News Summary.