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EC Launches Competition Probe into Thomson Reuters RIC Codes

The European Commission has opened its formal anti-trust proceedings against Thomson Reuters concerning a potential infringement of the EC Treaty’s rules on abuse of a dominant market position by virtue of its Reuters Instrument Code (RIC) symbology. The Commission says it will investigate Thomson Reuters’ practices in the area of real-time market datafeeds, and in particular whether customers or competitors are prevented from mapping RICs to other data feed suppliers’ symbologies.

The Commission says that “Without the possibility of such mapping, customers may potentially be ‘locked’ in to working with Thomson Reuters because replacing RICs by reconfiguring or by rewriting their software applications can be a long and costly procedure.”

The investigation has been on the cards ever since Reuters merged with Thomson Corp. (Market Data Insight, September 2007), when both EU and US regulators said they would explore the competition implications of the union. The inquiry follows a similar investigation into Standard & Poor’s Cusip numbering system, and the announcement – no doubt coincidental – by Bloomberg of plans to introduce a kind of open source symbology system.

The European Commission says “The opening of proceedings does not imply that the Commission has proof of an infringement. It signifies that the Commission will conduct an in-depth investigation of the case as a matter of priority.” It says it opened the investigation into Thomson Reuters’ conduct on its own initiative, and that the company’s rights of defence will be fully respected.

There is no strict deadline to complete inquiries into anticompetitive conduct. Their duration depends on a number of factors, including the complexity of each case, the extent to which the undertakings concerned co-operate with the Commission and the exercise of the rights of defence.

In a statement, Thomson Reuters said: “Thomson Reuters provides its customers with consistent, dependable and convenient access to millions of financial instruments from almost every electronic trading venue around the world and a vast number of other sources of valuable high quality content. Thomson Reuters data is reliably and consistently identified by a managed code, which we create and maintain to enable navigation of the company’s global content. Our customers are at the heart of our business and we continue to work with them to explore how best to add value to our data services.”

It added: “Thomson Reuters will fully cooperate with the European Commission’s investigation which is at a preliminary stage.”

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