The European Commission recently reaffirmed that industrial policy objectives have no role to play when it comes to applying the EU merger control rules. Despite unusually intense industrial and political pressure to get the Siemens/Alstom railway merger done, Competition Commissioner Vestager has forcefully reiterated that the substantive test under the EU Merger Regulation remains exclusively competition based.

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Margrethe Vestager, former Deputy Prime Minister of Denmark, is designated to become the next European Union Competition Commissioner in November 2014. In a three hour hearing before the European Parliament (EP) last night (2 October), Ms Vestager answered the EP’s questions and revealed a number of issues that she would like to focus on during her five year term of office. These priorities include vigorous cartel enforcement and—at least initially—assessment of whether or not certain tax arrangements in a small number of EU Member States infringe State aid rules.

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by Martina Maier and Philipp Werner (with contribution from Katharina Dietz)

The European Commission (Commission) took the first concrete action towards using EU State aid rules against aggressive tax planning by multinational companies by opening formal investigations against Ireland (Apple), Luxembourg (Fiat Finance and Trade) and the Netherlands (Starbucks). The Commission has concerns that these companies may have benefited from a selective advantage in the form of tax rulings by tax authorities that confer on them a preferential calculation of the taxable basis. The Commission has already announced that it investigates further cases of alleged State aid in the form of tax rulings in at least six EU Member States (including France and the UK) in the upcoming months.

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by Rohan Massey, Lionel Lesur, Veronica Pinotti, Vincent Schröder

All e-commerce businesses active in the European Economic Area (EEA) should review their current processes, policies, terms and documentation and implement any changes before 13 June 2014 to ensure they are compliant with the new national laws of the EU Member States implementing EU Directive No 2011/83/EU on consumer rights. In those Member States that fail to implement the Directive into their national laws, the provisions of the Directive will directly apply.

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by Martina Maier and Robert Bäuerlewith contribution from Katharina Dietz, a paralegal at McDermott Will & Emery’s Brussels office

New rules of procedure in EU State aid investigations will enter into force very soon.  The European Commission will, for the first time, have the opportunity to request information from entities other than the EU Member State concerned, such as public and private companies that are not subject of a State aid investigation themselves.  Companies will be obliged to respond to the information request and fines might be imposed for failing to respond on time or providing incorrect, misleading or incomplete information.  Other major changes include a more restrictive approach in dealing with complaints and the European Commission now being able to conduct inquiries across various EU Member States into a particular sector.

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by Martina Maier and Robert Bäuerle 

The European Commission opened the first in-depth investigation into alleged State aid for professional football clubs.  This comes after the Commission launched investigations into the financing of arenas.  It is likely that other professional football clubs in the European Union, and other professional sports clubs and their related infrastructure, will be investigated by the Commission.

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