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Brussels, 5 March 2014
Statement by Vice-President Joaquín Almunia on antitrust decisions on power exchanges
Today the Commission adopted two antitrust decisions related to power exchanges - the platforms where electricity is traded.
In the first decision, the Commission has imposed fines totalling almost 6 million euros on the two leading European spot power exchanges, EPEX Spot and Nord Pool Spot (NPS).
The two power exchanges agreed not to compete with one another, in particular by allocating territories between themselves. The anti-competitive agreements lasted at least seven months in 2011-2012. The aim was to protect their respective national strongholds and share the countries where they planned to expand, in order to maintain the power balance between them. This, of course, was a clear breach of our rules that strictly prohibit cartels in the European Economic Area.
In the second decision, the Commission has imposed a fine of 1.031 million euros on OPCOM, the Romanian power exchange, and its mother company Transelectrica, for having abused its dominant position.
More precisely, OPCOM discriminated against electricity traders established in EU countries other than Romania by requiring them to obtain a Romanian VAT registration even though they already had a VAT registration in their home country. This was not a requirement of Romanian law, but resulted only from OPCOM's behaviour. The abuse lasted from 2008 to 2013. Not accepting the market entry of traders from other EU countries on the Romanian exchange created an artificial barrier to market entry for EU traders and in turn reduced liquidity on the Romanian wholesale electricity market.
These two decisions are significant, because power exchanges are central to the efficient functioning of electricity markets, in the best interest of consumers.
Indeed power exchanges provide key price information and price signals in wholesale electricity markets. The electricity contracts traded on those platforms may be delivered in 24 hours or less – this is the so-called "spot" market. Just to give you an idea of its importance, electricity worth more than 40 billion euros was traded on spot exchanges in the EU in 2012. Anticompetitive practices at this level can therefore seriously disrupt and distort electricity markets.
This is why preserving healthy competition between power exchanges and between traders contributes to ensuring that electricity markets operate as efficiently as they should. Ultimately, this prevents consumers from paying unjustified and unnecessary extra costs. This matters at a time when most European citizens are concerned by their rising electricity bills.
These two decisions are also a good illustration of how EU competition policy helps to build and sustain the Single Market.
When building the Single Market, it is essential to make sure that anticompetitive behaviour of market players does not raise new barriers to trade. Sharing European territories among competitors or discriminating on grounds of nationality cannot be tolerated. Such practices simply run against the fundamental principles of our Single Market.
So we need to remain extremely vigilant, or else all our past and present efforts to remove regulatory barriers would be jeopardised. This is all the more important at a time when we still have a lot to do to build a truly integrated EU energy market which will allow us to tackle the challenges of climate change, competiveness and security of supply through a genuinely European approach.
The Commission will therefore continue to monitor competition in energy markets closely and will enforce antitrust rules wherever needed.