On the 4th October the Competition and Consumer Appeals Tribunal issued a decision on the distribution of gas cylinders in Malta which had been pending since January 2013. It should be noted that the Office for Competition within the MCCAA instead of issuing the decision sent it to the Tribunal to decide instead of deciding itself. Probably this was done so as the government would not be pressed to take action on the eve of a general election – an action which would have put it in confrontation with the GRTU.
The Tribunal in its decision agreed to the findings of the Office of Competition namely:
That the standard agreement made between the bulk provider and the distributors were ipso iure null and void as they go against Art 101(2) of Trattat dwar il-funzjonament tal-Unjoni Ewropea and Art 5(2) of the Competition Act as they included a clause which gives exclusive geographical distribution rights with the aim of preventing, restricting or distort the internal market;
During the period between 2004 and 2009 Enemalta was in breach of the above mentioned articles as it was party to these standard agreements; and
That between the period of 2010 and 2013 the GRTU acted in breach of the said articles through its actions which had the intention to prevent, restrict or distort the internal market particularly Malta.
This was a very important decision as it showed how the internal Maltese market was and is being manipulated to restrict and distort competition. In 2015, there was a decision taken by government to reward the 31 distributors who were in breach of the law by giving them a subsidy in order to start competing. The positive things that came out of the 2013 decision were that the market was opened to other competitors and that the service to consumers was supposed to drastically improve.
Yet, the Association noted that the service did not improve one iota and thus requested the new Energy and Water Authority to oblige these 31 distributors to improve the service according to the 2015 decision. The Association held a meeting with the Authority but noted the lack of willingness to have the decision implemented. As a result we wrote to the new Authority (vide). The chain of correspondence to date is being attached to this article.