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State Aid

We are Stibbe State Aid specialists

We assist clients with analysis, adaptation, notification and litigation on State aid issues such as government subsidies, local authority support and exemption or reduction from taxes.

State Aid

As an increasingly important part of EU competition law, we assist companies and governments on a daily basis with practical State aid advice, notifications to the European Commission and complex litigation matters both at national and EU level.

Our team has a deep understanding of the principles and processes needed to ensure that the entire subsidy application and granting process is lawful under national rules and in particular with EU State aid rules.

Our intervention covers both the structuring of projects from a State aid perspective, preparing and defending notifications, recovery of illegal State aid, drafting of legislation and infringement procedures.

Matters include environmental subsidies for companies and power plants, national or local State support for small and large infrastructure projects, tax exemptions, and public transport subsidies. In these areas we handle litigation, transactional advice and hold informal contacts with the EU Commission.

Of particular note is our involvement with many landmark and high-profile State aid litigation cases before the European Commission, EU courts and various national courts. 

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04.02.2021 NL law
ECJ clarifies limits of antitrust limitation periods

Short Reads - Companies confronted with antitrust investigations and fines may find safeguard behind the rules governing limitation periods (often termed ‘statutes of limitation’). However, two preliminary rulings by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) show that those rules are not necessarily set in stone. According to the ECJ, national time limits relating to the imposition of antitrust fines may require deactivation if these limits result in a ‘systemic risk’ that antitrust infringements may go unpunished.

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07.01.2021 NL law
Commission evaluates Antitrust Damages Directive: to be continued

Short Reads - On 14 December 2020, the Commission published a report on the implementation of the Antitrust Damages Directive (the Directive). The Commission observes a significant increase in antitrust damages actions since the adoption of the Directive. However, there is insufficient experience with the new Directive to properly evaluate its application. Instead, the Commission provides a concise overview of the implementation of some key aspects of the Directive.

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07.01.2021 NL law
Amsterdam District Court puts a halt to unlimited forum shopping

Short Reads - On 25 November 2020, the Amsterdam District Court (the Court) declined jurisdiction over all non-Dutch defendants (the foreign defendants) in proceedings for compensation of damage based partly on an infringement of Article 101 TFEU. The proceedings were initiated by four public utility companies from the Gulf States (claimants) against both Dutch and foreign defendants.

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The next 5 years: European Commission launches New Consumer Agenda

Short Reads - Despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the European Commission is already looking ahead to set its consumer protection priorities for the next five years. Key points in the New Consumer Agenda include equipping consumers with better information on product sustainability, digital transformation, effective enforcement, safety concerning products ‘made in China’ and protecting particularly vulnerable consumers such as children, older people or those with disabilities. The New Consumer Agenda is a follow-up to the 2018 New Deal for Consumers.

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04.02.2021 NL law
Game over? Gaming companies fined for geo-blocking

Short Reads - The Commission’s cross-border sales crusade seems far from over. The EUR 7.8 million fine imposed on distribution platform owner Valve and five PC video games publishers for geo-blocking practices is the most recent notch in the Commission’s belt. Food producer Mondelĕz may be next on the Commission’s hit list: a formal investigation into possible cross-border trade restrictions was opened recently.

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ACM study calls for regulation of Big Techs on payment market

Short Reads - The ACM’s market study, published on 1 December 2020, provides an overview of recent and upcoming developments concerning the role of Big Tech companies in both online and offline payment markets in the Netherlands. Although Big Tech companies currently have a relatively limited presence in these markets, the ACM expects significant expansion in the near future given these companies’ ability to leverage existing market power on other (platform) markets.

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Do the math: ACM publishes strategy on monitoring use algorithms

Short Reads - The ACM worries that the use of algorithms may lead to the creation of cartels, or nudge consumers towards a purchasing decision that is not in their best interest. Therefore, on 10 December 2020, it published a new policy document (in Dutch) setting out what businesses can expect when the ACM checks their algorithms. On the same day, the ACM also launched a trial with online music library Muziekweb to improve the ACM’s knowledge about the categories of data that are likely to be relevant in such investigations. All signs indicate the ACM’s intention to become more active in this area.

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On the right track? GC sends mixed messages with Lithuanian Railways

Short Reads - The essential facilities doctrine imposes on holders of indispensable facilities a duty to deal with their competitors. While a railway track may seem essential, a track’s removal does not fall under this doctrine if carried out by a monopolist manager of a state-developed facility bearing a statutory obligation to grant third parties access to its facilities. According to the General Court, the Commission was therefore correct to use the general framework for abuse of a dominant position to assess the Lithuanian railway operator’s removal of a railway track.

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07.01.2021 NL law
(Geo)blockbuster: Canal+ ruling annuls commitment decision

Short Reads - A heads-up for companies seeking to settle in antitrust proceedings: commercially-affected third party complainants are not to be ignored. The Canal+ judgment marks the first time a commitment decision has been successfully challenged since the adoption of Regulation 1/2003. The European Court of Justice annulled the commitment decision on the ground that the Commission failed to take into account the rights of contractual parties affected by the commitments.

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Belgian prohibition on abuse of economic dependence comes into force and new fining guidelines

Short Reads - In 2019, Belgium introduced legislation banning abuse in relationships between companies where there is no dominant position, but rather a position of economic dependence. The act entered into force on 22 August 2020. This category of restrictive practice applies alongside the existing prohibitions on cartels and abuse of a dominant position. It opens up new opportunities but also new threats for companies that are not in a dominant position.

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