The European Commission has opened a formal antitrust investigation to assess possible abusive behaviour by Public Power Corporation (‘PPC’) in the wholesale Greek electricity sector.
Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy said: “We all rely on well-functioning electricity markets. Today we are launching an investigation of PPC’s behaviour in wholesale electricity markets in Greece that might have distorted competition and slowed down investment into the generation of greener energy. Greece has recently embarked on an ambitious plan to exit from lignite. Ensuring effective competition is the best way to deliver competitively priced electricity, both for citizens and businesses, as well as to stimulate investment in less polluting energy sources.”
PPC is the largest supplier of retail and wholesale electricity in Greece. PPC is majority owned by the Greek State. It controls all lignite and hydro as well as some of the natural gas and renewable power generation plants. It is also active in the supply of energy to retail and business consumers where it still has more than two-thirds market share.
The Commission is concerned that PPC may have restricted competition in the Greek wholesale electricity markets with its bidding behaviour. In particular, in light of PPC’s position both at wholesale and retail levels, it may have adopted predatory bidding strategies hindering the ability of PPC rivals to compete in the wholesale and related electricity markets.
If proven, this behaviour may constitute an exclusionary predatory practice, which is in breach of EU antitrust rules, specifically on the abuse of a dominant market position (Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union).
The opening of proceedings means that the Commission will examine the cases as a matter of priority. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.
This investigation is unrelated to case number AT.39700 concerning the privileged access rights to lignite granted by the Greek state to publicly-owned PPC.
Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union prohibits the abuse of a dominant market position, which may affect trade between Member States. The implementation of this provision is defined in the Antitrust Regulation (Council Regulation No 1/2003), which can be applied by the Commission and by the national competition authorities of EU Member States.
Article 11(6) of Regulation 1/2003 provides that the initiation of proceedings by the Commission relieves the competition authorities of the Member States of their competence to also apply EU competition rules to the practices concerned. Article 16(1) of the same Regulation provides that national courts must avoid giving decisions which would conflict with a decision contemplated by the Commission in proceedings it has initiated.
There is no legal deadline for bringing an antitrust investigation to an end. The duration of an investigation depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of the case, the cooperation of the undertakings with the Commission and the exercise of the rights of defence.