European Commission renders legally binding commitments on Rio Tinto Alcan

On 20 December 2012, the Commission issued a press release stating that it has made legally binding the commitments offered by Rio Tinto Alcan (“Alcan”) to address the Commission’s concerns that Alcan might have infringed Article 101 and 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, by contractually tying its leading Aluminum Pechiney (“AP”) aluminum smelting technology to the purchase of aluminum smelter equipment namely, pot tending assemblies or “PTAs”, i.e. specialty cranes used in aluminum reduction plants or smelters where aluminum is primarily produced) (see Newsletter 4-5/2012 p. 11 for more background). By accepting the commitments the Commission closed a case which stemmed from a complaint by crane manufacturer Réel, and which prompted the Commission to issue a Statement of Objections to Alcan back in 2008.

Alcan, which according to the Commission is a company with substantial market power in the market for the licensing of aluminum smelting technology, committed to modify its AP technology transfer agreements so as to enable the licensees of the AP aluminum smelting technology to purchase PTAs from any recommended supplier.  The commitments introduce an objective and non-discriminatory process for selecting qualified suppliers of PTAs, whereas Alcan will provide competing PTA suppliers with the necessary technical specifications to ensure that their PTAs are capable of operating in smelters using AP technologies. [Gabriele Accardo]