Commission has accepted commitments from Norwegian gas producers to
cease joint sales and closed the case relating to the sale of
Norwegian natural gas by the GFU.
The GFU case
concerns joint sales of Norwegian natural gas which, since 1989,
have been conducted through a single seller, the GFU (Gas
Negotiation Committee). The GFU had two
permanent members, Statoil and Norsk Hydro, Norway’s largest
gas producers, which were occasionally joined by other Norwegian
gas producers. The GFU negotiated the terms of all supply contracts
with buyers on behalf of all natural gas producers in
In June 2001
the Commission initiated formal proceedings against around 30
Norwegian gas companies arguing that the GFU scheme was
incompatible with European competition law. The GFU scheme was
promptly ended in June 2001, at least so far as EEA sales were
concerned, by a Royal decree from the Norwegian
Government. The gas companies and the Norwegian
Government therefore argued that the Commission should halt its
action. They also argued that European
competition law should not be applied, since the Norwegian gas
producers had been compelled by the Norwegian Government to sell
gas through the GFU system.
negotiations between the Norwegian gas producers and the European
Commission a distinction was made between (1) the permanent members
of the GFU (Statoil and Norsk Hydro), (2) six corporate groups
actually selling Norwegian gas through contracts negotiated by the
GFU (ExxonMobil, Shell, TotalFinaElf, Conoco, Fortum and Agip) and
(3) all other Norwegian gas producers against which formal
proceedings had been opened.
Statoil and Norsk Hydro have agreed to end all joint marketing and
sales activities unless these are compatible with European
competition law (for existing contracts individual negotiations
must take place when prices come up for review) and (2) to reserve
certain gas volumes for new customers, i.e. those who in the past
have not bought gas from Norwegian gas
producers. (Statoil has undertaken to make
available 13 BCM of gas, and Norsk Hydro 2.2 BCM, during the period
June 2001 to September 2005. External auditors will monitor these
welcomed these commitments as they would contribute to the creation
of a single market for gas in Europe by giving European gas
purchasers a wider choice of Norwegian suppliers, thus facilitating
the establishment of new supply relationships.
This should also have a positive impact on the European market
structure, which is still characterised by dominant suppliers in
almost all markets.
although not part of the GFU case, Statoil and Norsk Hydro also
confirmed that they would not introduce territorial sales
restrictions and/or use restrictions in their gas supply
contracts. Both types of clauses are considered
incompatible with European competition law as they prevent the
creation of a single market, but are considered necessary by
certain market operators. The Commission
welcomed Statoil’s and Norsk Hydro’s position as it
demonstrates that gas can indeed be marketed in the Community
without these anti-competitive clauses.
As regards the other Norwegian
companies concerned by the GFU case, the Commission received
commitments from ExxonMobil, Shell, TotalFinaElf, Conoco, Fortum
and Agip to discontinue all joint marketing and sales activities
similar to those given by Statoil and Norsk Hydro.
For the remaining Norwegian gas
producers the Commission decided to close the case on the
assumption that they will sell Norwegian gas individually in the
interesting to note that Mr Monti and Commission Vice President
Loyola de Palacio, who is in charge of energy matters, made a joint
comment on settlement of the case. They took the
opportunity to stress that it will now also be essential to ensure
that Norwegian gas can effectively be transported through the
European gas pipelines. They said: “The
Commission will pursue any violations of internal market rules and
competition rules regarding access of Norwegian gas to European
pipelines with vigour. We urge national
authorities to do the same.
This is clearly
an area to watch.
information please contact: Susan Hankey at firstname.lastname@example.org
or on +44(0)20 7367 2960 or Judith Aldersey-Williams at email@example.com
or on +44(0)1224 622002.