The European Commission has fined the Bulgarian Energy Holding (“BEH”), its gas supply subsidiary Bulgargaz and its gas infrastructure subsidiary Bulgartransgaz (“the BEH group”) €77.068.000,00 for blocking competitors’ access to key gas infrastructure in Bulgaria in breach of article 102 of TFEU.
The Commission opened a formal investigation into the BEH Group’s behaviour on July 4, 2013, following an inspection carried out at its premises in September 2011 and issued a statement of objections on March 23, 2015.
More precisely, according to the EU Commission, between 2010 and 2015 the BEH Group blocked the access to the following gas infrastructure:
- the domestic Bulgarian gas transmission network;
- the only gas storage facility in Bulgaria and
- the only import pipeline bringing gas into Bulgaria, which was fully booked by BEH.
Without access to this essential infrastructure, it was impossible for potential competitors to enter wholesale gas supply markets in Bulgaria.
In the infringing decision, the EU Commission has found that the BEH group:
(i) holds dominant positions both in the gas infrastructure markets and in the gas supply markets in Bulgaria and
(ii) has abused its dominant positions by foreclosing entry into the gas supply markets in Bulgaria having unduly restricted access to the infrastructure it owned and operated. BEH used the dominant position of one subsidiary, Bulgartransgaz, to protect the near monopolistic position of Bulgargaz on supplying gas. In addition, Bulgargaz hoarded capacity on the only import pipeline bringing gas through Romania to Bulgaria so that it could not be used by potential competitors.