ZWeR 2020, 153

RWS Verlag Kommunikationsforum GmbH & Co. KG, Köln RWS Verlag Kommunikationsforum GmbH & Co. KG, Köln 2199-1723 Zeitschrift für Wettbewerbsrecht ZWeR 2020 AufsätzeTilman Kuhn*

The 15th anniversary of the SIEC test under the EU Merger Regulation – where do we stand? (Part 2)

On May 1, 2019, the significant impediment to effective competition (“SIEC”) test pursuant to Article 2(2) and (3) of the EU Merger Regulation (Regulation No. 139/2004; “EUMR”), celebrated its 15th anniversary. The Commission has taken more than 5,000 decisions in merger cases under this new standard in the last decade and a half. Therefore, it seems opportune to pause and take stock. Has the introduction of the SIEC test achieved the desired results? Has it been applied according to the legislator’s plans? Does its application need to change going forward?
After a short recap of the test’s history and genesis (I.) and a reminder of the burden and standard of proof (II.), this article reviews the Commission’s decisional practice (and the limited practice of the EU Courts) systematically, and intends to summarize the various theories of harm covered by the SIEC test’s application in practice (III.). Second, it analyzes the decisional practice and draws conclusions as to whether the test’s application in practice is predictable, persuasive, and in line with the legislator’s intent (IV.). Third and last, after some practical and procedural observations (V.), it concludes with a few proposals for improvement (VI.).
Given the scope of the ground covered, this article is split into two separate parts over two separate volumes of this journal, with Part 1 in the journal’s previous volume having covered sections I. and II., as well as part III. with respect to horizontal mergers and a brief summary in this respect.
This Part 2 of the article continues in this volume in section III. with non-horizontal mergers, and finishes with sections IV. through VI.

Contents

  • [Part 1 of the article (chapter I. and II.) was published in ZWeR 2020, p. 1 – 51]
  • III. Theories of harm captured under the SIEC test in the Commision’s practice
    • 5. Vertical mergers
      • 5.1 Commission practice under the dominance standard
      • 5.2 Application of the SIEC test prior to the NHMG
      • 5.3 Analytical framework under the NHMG
        • 5.3.1 Non-coordinated effects
          • 5.3.1.1 Ability to foreclose
          • 5.3.1.2 Incentive to foreclose
          • 5.3.1.3 Overall impact on competition
        • 5.3.2 Coordinated effects
      • 5.4 The application of the SIEC test under the NHMG
    • 6. Conglomerate mergers
      • 6.1 Application under the dominance standard
      • 6.2 Analytical framework under the NHMG
        • 6.2.1 Non-coordinated effects
          • 6.2.1.1 Ability to foreclose
          • 6.2.1.2 Incentive to foreclose
          • 6.2.1.3 Overall impact on competition
        • 6.2.2 Coordinated effects
      • ZWeR 2020, 154
      • 6.3 Application under the NHMG
      • 6.4 Particularly creative theories of harm – conglomerate mergers
    • 7. Treatment of efficiencies
    • 8. The counterfactual and the failing firm defense
      • 8.1 The failing firm defense
      • 8.2 The “flailing firm”
      • 8.3 The “alternative counterfactual” outside the failing firm defense
    • 9. The “S” in SIEC
  • IV. Summary assessment
    • 1. Higher intervention rate
    • 2. Tougher action against horizontal mergers
      • 2.1 Closeness of competition and important competitive force have become empty shells
      • 2.2 Unclear treatment of “key” vs. “fringe” players
      • 2.3 The decline of coordinated effects cases
      • 2.4 SIEC test used as a “door opener” for questionable theories of harm
        • 2.4.1 Innovation
        • 2.4.2 Killer and “zombie” acquisitions
        • 2.4.3 Portfolio dominance
        • 2.4.4 Issues allegedly arising from common minority ownership
    • 3. Tougher action against non-horizontal mergers
    • 4. Burden of proof and efficiencies
    • 5. The “S” in SIEC
    • 6. Assumption of anti-competitiveness and broader skepticism of mergers
  • V. Practical observations
  • VI. Conclusions and outlook
*
*)
Dr. iur., LL.M. (Amsterdam), Rechtsanwalt, Düsseldorf
The author thanks his colleagues D. Daniel Sokol, Douglas Jasinski, Thilo Wienke, Cristina Caroppo, Johannes Gehring and David Marder for their comments and help with some of the research.

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