Commission investigates Thomson Reuters in the area of real-time datafeeds

On 10 November 2009, the European Commission made public the initiation of antitrust proceedings against Thomson Reuters, the Canadian news and financial data company. The investigation relates to alleged abusive practices by Reuters in the area of real-time datafeeds.

A datafeed can be described as a virtual pipeline of electronically distributed real-time market data, which “feeds” software applications developed by banks and financial institutions.  Reuters uses proprietary alphanumerical codes (Reuters Instruments Codes or “RICs”) to identify securities and their trading locations and to retrieve information from Reuters real-time datafeeds, e.g. information on stock prices at a certain exchange.

The Commission is concerned that Reuters customers or competitors are prevented from translating RICs to alternative identification codes of other datafeed suppliers (so called “mapping”). If customers cannot perform such mapping, they are de facto “locked”-in to working with Reuters unless they can reconfigure or rewrite their software applications, which can be long and costly.  The Commission’s press release does not clarify how competitors may also be affected by Reuters conduct.

The Commission opened the investigation on its own motion. While generally the Commission makes public the commencement of a proceeding when issuing a statement of objections or in a preliminary assessment notice (in settlement procedures), in the case at stake it has chosen to open the proceeding before any such further steps. This procedural step relieves the competition authorities of the Member States of their competence to apply Article 102 TFEU (formerly Article 82 EC) in this matter. [Gabriele Accardo]