EU Commission targets Gaz de France in antitrust inquiry

Doris Leblond
OGJ Correspondent

PARIS, May 22 -- The EU Commission has opened "formal antitrust proceedings" against Gaz de France for what it says is "a suspected breach of the EU's Treaty rules on abuse of dominant position and restrictive practices" in the wake of inspections carried out in 2006 in France.

It carefully adds that the initiation proceedings don't imply that the commission "has proof of an infringement," a sentence that Gaz de France has seized upon in its related releases.

Gaz de France said that since the gas market was deregulated, it has seen a number of competitors emerge, and they have full access to various facilities owned by Gaz de France and its subsidiaries.

Gaz de France also notes that the commission's suspicions extend to the company's long-term gas import contracts, which are a means of ensuring that France has reliable supplies of natural gas, the company said. The imports, it contends, are "an advantage for consumers within a context of higher prices charged for fossil fuels and the greater geographical remoteness of resources."

Gaz de France said there have been no complaints of any breach to the Energy Regulatory Commission or to authorities responsible for ensuring compliance with the community's competition rules.

The head of Gaz de France's press department Jerome Chambin told OGJ that the commission was looking for documents to back up its case and that Gaz de France was cooperating fully, "confident of its conduct in this area."

The commission indicated that initiation of the proceedings means only that it will conduct an in-depth investigation of the case "as a matter of priority."

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