EU Court Orders New Look at Dutch Telecoms’ Merger

(CN) – The European General Court on Thursday nixed the planned merger of the top two cable TV networks in the Netherlands, finding regulators failed to adequately look into the impact of the merger on pay TV sports channels.

In 2014, the European Commission approved international cable operator Liberty Global’s acquisition of Dutch cable TV network Ziggo on condition that Liberty divest itself of its premium pay TV channel and terminate any agreement it had with other broadcasters that restricted their ability to offer their channels in the Netherlands.

But none of the conditions involved paid sports channels, leading Dutch cable company KPN to challenge the commission’s approval of the merger. KPN blasted the commission’s failure to analyze possible competition effects on the premium sports channel market – and its failure to give reasons for why it chose not to look at that market.

In its ruling Thursday, the Luxembourg-based general court acknowledged the commission isn’t automatically obligated to explain its decisions. However, when the regulator brings up the possibility of the premium sports channel market being affected by the merger in its decision – and notes any impacts wouldn’t change its decision – it must give reasons for that finding, the court said.

The general court’s ruling cancels the commission’s approval of the Liberty-Ziggo merger. The commission can either appeal to the European Court of Justice or opt to re-examine its decision to satisfy the general court’s findings.

 

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