Bulgarian Energy Holding (BEH) and two of its subsidiaries have been fined a little over €77m by the European Commission (EC) on grounds of violating EU antitrust rules.
The Commission has fined the Bulgarian state-owned energy holding company along with its gas supply subsidiary Bulgargaz and gas infrastructure subsidiary Bulgartransgaz for not allowing their competitors access to key gas infrastructure in Bulgaria.
The charges of EC on the Bulgarian state-owned firm pertain to a period between 2010 and 2015 when it was accused of blocking access of competitors to the country’s domestic gas transmission network, the only gas storage facility in the country and also an import gas pipeline.
EC said that the lack of access to the essential infrastructure made it impossible for potential competitors to foray into wholesale gas supply markets in Bulgaria. A formal probe into the accusations on the Bulgarian energy holding company was launched by the Commission in July 2013.
EC Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “Consumers in all Member States should enjoy the benefits of an integrated and competitive single European energy market. For years, Bulgarian natural gas consumers have been denied a choice of suppliers because the BEH group refused to give access to its gas infrastructure to other wholesale gas suppliers.
“With today’s decision, we will promote the development of an open and competitive energy market to the benefit of consumers in Bulgaria, in line with Energy Union objectives.”
Bulgartransagaz is responsible for controlling the gas infrastructure in Bulgaria while Bulgargaz supplies gas to customers in the country. EC said that the BEH group holds dominant positions in the gas infrastructure markets and also in the gas supply markets in Bulgaria.
The Commission ruled that BEH and its subsidiaries, misused their dominant positions by preventing entry into the gas supply markets in Bulgaria by unduly curbing access to the infrastructure owned and operated by it.
It further accused the energy holding company of using the dominant position of Bulgartransgaz to protect the near monopoly of Bulgargaz on supply of gas. Further, the Commission ruled that Bulgargaz fully booked capacity on the only import pipeline that delivers gas through Romania to Bulgaria to ensure that it could not be used by potential competitors.