The European Commission decided yesterday to open an antitrust probe into
Gaz de France, operator of Europe's largest natural gas network, for alleged
practice of supply restrictions.
"The Commission proceedings focus on behavior which may prevent or reduce
competition on supply markets for natural gas in France, "the European Union
(EU)'s antitrust watchdog said in a statement.
Based on inspections carried out in 2006 on Gaz de France premises in France
by EU inspectors, the Commission accused the French utility of anticompetitive
behavior, in particular, through a combination of long-term reservation of
transport capacity and a network of import agreements, as well as through under
investment inimport infrastructure capacity.
However, the Commission said the initiation of proceedings did not imply it
had proof of an infringement, but only signified that there would be an in-depth
investigation of the case.
"We found information during the course of those investigations which
illustrated that there was deliberate under investment so there would be no
increase in gas imports onto the French market,' 'Commission spokesman Jonathan
Todd told reporters at a daily briefing.
"Where there is a deliberate policy of not investing, the recould be an issue
of the abuse of the dominant position on the market," he added.
Gaz de France said it has substantially increased investment in
infrastructure in recent years to 1.5 billion euros (US$2.37 billion) last year,
but it vowed to fully cooperate with the European Commission in the probe.
If found guilty, the company could be fined up to 10 percent of its annual