27. juni 2012
On June 27th 2012, The Danish Competition Council (DCC) has adopted a commitment decision, cf. Section 16a of the Danish Competition Act, to prevent competition restrictions in the Danish market for news services. The decision concerns the news agency Ritzau Bureau af 2012 A/S’ (Ritzau) behavior on the Danish market for news services.
The case was initiated by a complaint from the competing news agency Newspaq A/S in January 2010 and a subsequent inspection of Ritzau in May 2010.
The preliminary investigation showed that Ritzau had obliged the owners of the company to buy Ritzau’s main product, the general news service, as a necessary condition of being an owner. This agreement gave rise to concerns.
Furthermore the preliminary investigation showed that Ritzau had made an agreement with the newspaper company MetroXpress Denmark A/S (MetroXpress) in May 2009 about delivering news service to the undertaking until the end of 2013 that could only be terminated if a fee was paid. This agreement also gave rise to concerns.
Based on the preliminary investigation, the DCC found that the owners’ obligation to buy Ritzau’s general news service could have had the effect that at least 60 percent of the undertakings on the downstream news market were obliged to obtain all or most of their requirements of news service from Ritzau. The DCC found that the obligation could have been likely to restrict competition in the national market for news services by foreclosing competitors in the market and hence be an infringement of section 6 of the Danish Competition Act.
Based on the preliminary investigation, the DCC furthermore found that Ritzau possesses a dominant position in the national market for news services.
The DCC found that Ritzau’s agreement with MetroXpress could be an exclusive agreement that obliged MetroXpress to obtain all or most of its requirement of news service fra Ritzau for a period of 4,5 years. The DCC found that the agreement - also seen in the light of the obligation for the owners in Ritzau to buy the general news service from Ritzau - was likely to further foreclose competitors in the national market for news services and hence be an infringement of section 11 of the Danish Competition Act.
Ritzau contested the DCC’s preliminary definition of the relevant market and that Ritzau possesses a dominant position in this market. However Ritzau offered commitments at an early stage of the investigation to end the DCC’s investigations.
Ritzau has committed i) not to oblige its owners to buy Ritzau’s general news service as a condition of being owner in the company and ii) to modify its agreement with MetroXpress so that the contract can be terminated with a 12 months’ notice and without paying a fee.
The DCC finds that the commitments meet the concerns regarding the agreements’ compatibility with section 6 and section 11 of the Danish Competition Act. Therefore the DCC has made the offered commitments binding according to section 16a of the Danish Competition Act.
The commitments are binding for a period of 5 years.