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Sunday, 16 August 2015

Interim injunction granted in abuse of dominant position case

Packet Media Ltd v Telefonica UK Ltd [2015] EWHC 2235 (Ch) (20 July 2015) is not a motor industry case, but it is an important competition law case demonstrating how changes in the law have made remedies more accessible for smaller businesses (though whether the courts are accessible at all, in practical terms, to small businesses is debatable).

The Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013 amended section 35 of the Competition Act 1998, lowering the standard of proof for the granting of an interim injunction from “significant damage” to “serious, irreparable harm”.

Packet Media accused Telefonica (which operates the O2 network in the UK) of abusing their dominant position in the wholesale provision of access to call and SMS text origination. Packet Media relied on O2 providing and supporting their SIM cards, which enabled Packet Media to offer customers a low cost GSM gateway for calls and text messages. When O2 threatened to suspend this service, Packet Media sought an interim injunction in the High Court. They succeeded on the basis that Telefonica had a case to answer for a possible abuse of dominance, in breach of Part II of the Competition Act 1998.

Unusually, this is a ‘stand-alone’ case: there has been no earlier finding (for example, by the CMA or European Commission) that an abuse had been committed. Packet Media will have a harder job securing a permanent injunction, which will require it to prove fault. But at least it has shown that the amended law on interim injunctions can be helpful to smaller players who depend on large suppliers.

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