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Antitrust: Commission fines Romanian Power Exchange OPCOM for discriminating against EU electricity traders

European Commission - IP/14/214   05/03/2014

Other available languages: FR DE RO

European Commission

Press release

Brussels, 5 March 2014

Antitrust: Commission fines Romanian Power Exchange OPCOM for discriminating against EU electricity traders

The European Commission has imposed a fine of just over € 1 million on S.C. OPCOM S.A. for abusing its dominant position in the Romanian market for facilitating electricity spot trading, in breach of EU antitrust rules. OPCOM operates the only power exchange in Romania. Power exchanges are organised markets for trading electricity. Spot trading means trading in the short run (e.g. within the same day or for the next day). The Commission found that OPCOM discriminated against EU-based electricity traders from outside Romania for over five years.

Joaquín Almunia, Commission Vice President in charge of competition policy, said: "Power exchanges are key to the efficient functioning of energy markets, in the best interest of consumers. OPCOM’s abusive behaviour prevented EU traders from joining the Romanian power exchange's spot markets, creating an artificial barrier to entry in breach of EU competition rules. National barriers of this type do not only hamper the completion of a Single Market in energy, but also stand in the way of the development of efficient, liquid markets." (see also the statement)

Between 2008 and 2013, OPCOM required members of the spot electricity markets to have a Romanian VAT registration, refusing to accept traders that were already registered for VAT in other EU Member States. As a result, EU traders could only enter the Romanian wholesale electricity market by setting up a fixed establishment in Romania, which entailed additional costs and organisational disadvantages for EU traders compared to Romanian traders. Discrimination on grounds of nationality or place of establishment is against the basic principles of the Single Market.

Power exchanges play an important role in providing public price information. This is crucial to achieve transparent and reliable electricity prices on the wholesale and retail markets. OPCOM's VAT registration requirement created an artificial barrier to market entry for EU traders and in turn reduced liquidity on the wholesale electricity market. The number of affected traders is significant. On power exchanges in comparable markets, over 50 % of the participants are EU traders without local VAT registration.

The Commission also holds OPCOM's parent company CNTEE Transelectrica S.A. (‘Transelectrica’) liable for the infringement. Transelectrica is the operator of the Romanian electricity transmission system.

Removing barriers to entry in wholesale electricity markets improves liquidity and fosters competition, which leads to a downward pressure on prices. It also ensures that the market sends correct price signals.

The Commission today also adopted a decision in another antitrust investigation involving power exchanges (see IP/14/215).

Fines

The Commission imposed a fine of  1 031 000 on Transelectrica and OPCOM, which are jointly and severally liable for the payment of the fine. The fine was set on the basis of the Commission's 2006 Guidelines on fines (see IP/06/857 and MEMO/06/256). In setting the level of fines, the Commission took into account the company's relevant sales in Romania, the serious nature of the infringement and its duration.

Background

The Commission opened antitrust proceedings into OPCOM’s behaviour on the Romanian spot exchange markets in December 2012 (see IP/12/1355) and informed the company about its objections in June 2013 (see IP/13/486).

Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (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 (EC) No 1/2003), which can be applied by the Commission and by the national competition authorities of EU Member States.

More information on today's decision will be available on the competition website in the public case register under the case number AT. 39984, once confidentiality issues will have been dealt with.

Action for damages

Any person or firm affected by anti-competitive behaviour as described in this case may bring the matter before the courts of the Member States and seek damages. The case law of the Court and Council Regulation 1/2003 both confirm that in cases before national courts a Commission decision is binding proof that the behaviour took place and was illegal. Even though the Commission has fined the companies concerned, damages may be awarded without these being reduced on account of the Commission fine.

In June 2013, the Commission has adopted a proposal for a Directive that aims at making it easier for victims of anti-competitive practices to obtain such damages (see IP/13/525 and MEMO/13/531). More information on antitrust damages actions, including a practical guide on how to quantify the harm typically caused by antitrust infringements, the public consultation and a citizens' summary, is available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/comm/competition/antitrust/actionsdamages/documents.html

Contacts :

Antoine Colombani (+32 2 297 45 13, Twitter: @ECspokesAntoine )

Marisa Gonzalez Iglesias (+32 2 295 19 25)


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