Competition law | Bokbasen-decision overturned

Today the Norwegian Competition Authority (NCA) faced another huge blow in a high-profile case on appeal, when the Competition Appeals Tribunal (CAT) overturned the NCA's fines of NOK 545m (about EUR 46m) to four book publishers in the "Bokbasen" case.

Following dawn raids in 2018, the NCA issued its decision in November 2022, fining four publishers (Gyldendal, Aschehoug, Vigmostad & Bjørke and Cappelen Damm) for their use of a database for current and future titles through the company Bokbasen, partly owned by the four publishers. Besides being a tool for customers such as bookshops and libraries, who could place orders through the database, Bokbasen also gave the publishers access to information on current and future titles from rival publishers. The NCA found in its decision that the publishers’ practice had the object of restricting competition in breach of the Norwegian competition act Section 10 and the EEA Agreement Article 53 (corresponding to TFEU Article 101).

While a public version of CAT’s decision has not yet been released, the CAT’s press release indicates that it found that the information available through Bokbasen did not concern future prices but related to current and recommended prices. Combined with the fact that Bokbasen did not operate as a private channel between the publishers, as the information also was available for the customers, the Tribunal concluded that the publishers’ practice did not amount to a restriction by object. The NCA’s decision was therefore annulled.

The decision from CAT is final and cannot be appealed by the NCA. Following a recent change in the Competition Act, however, the NCA now has the power to appeal the CAT’s decisions in future antitrust cases.

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