Belgian Competition Authority Publishes Expert Opinion To Judge In Billiard Ball Supply Case

Published date25 November 2022
Subject MatterAntitrust/Competition Law, Media, Telecoms, IT, Entertainment, Antitrust, EU Competition , Sport
Law FirmBird & Bird
AuthorMr Baptist Vleeshouwers

Royal Belgian Billiard Federation found to have infringed competition law

The Belgian Competition Authority (BCA) recently published its written comments and the judgment of the President of the Louvain Enterprises Tribunal in a case concerning exclusivity contracts in the billiard balls sector.

The case, which dates back to 2020-2021, concerned a dispute between Hector Cue Sports, a billiard attribute producer, and the Royal Belgian Billiard Federation (the RBBF). Hector Cue Sports was, at the time, a new player on the Belgian market for distribution and sale of billiard balls. The dispute revolved around two four-year exclusivity contracts granted by the RBBF for the supply of billiard balls and other attributes for certain high-profile carom billiard competitions. As part of the deals, only advertisements of the exclusive suppliers would be allowed during the tournaments covered.

Hector Cue Sports requested the President of the Louvain Enterprises Tribunal to issue an injunction against these contracts. It claimed that the RBBF had not provided it with the opportunity to compete for the agreements and that RBBF had therefore abused its dominant position on the market for the organisation and commercial operation of carom billiard tournaments.

The President requested the BCA to comment on the compatibility of the two exclusive contracts with competition law. The BCA was not party to the proceedings itself but was asked by the Judge to provide its comments as a so-called "amicus curiae" (a friend of the court). The procedure is intended to allow courts and tribunals to seek the authority's expert opinion on the application of competition law.

Following the BCA's written comments, the Judge held that RBBF had abused its dominant position.1 It held that the RBBF had not given Hector Cue Sports a "real opportunity to compete" for the exclusive contracts. The Judge attached great importance to the fact that Hector Cue Sports was only invited to submit an offer three days after one of the exclusivity agreements was already signed. In addition, in its invitation to Hector Cue Sports, the RBBF had not provided any information as to the exclusivity or other conditions of the sponsorship deals. The invitation was therefore considered too vague to allow Hector Cue Sports to understand that it risked being excluded as supplier.

The President also held that the exclusive deals infringed the prohibition on anticompetitive agreements.2 In that context, the Judge...

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