Norway wins cigarette display case

Tobacco giant Philip Morris has failed in its bid to have a Norwegian ban on the display of cigarettes in stores overturned.

Norway wins cigarette display case
Tobacco products hidden from view in an Oslo store (Photo: Thomas Winje Øijord/NTB Scanpix)

An Oslo court ruled on Friday that the two-year-old law did not violate European competition rules.

Philip Morris said it was disappointed with the verdict and would now take some time to examine the ruling before deciding whether to appeal.

Company spokesman Nordan Helland said the consumption of tobacco products had remained unchanged since the ban came into force, while police had seen a rise in the number of  illegal cigarettes being smuggled into the country.

“We still believe that the display ban does not provide health benefits and that it should be legal to show legal products in Norway,” he told news agency NTB.

His view was not shared by Anne Lise Ryel, who heads the Norwegian Cancer Society, and was delighted with the decision.

“The result was the one we had hoped for and expected. We are very pleased that the authorities can take public health into consideration, as they have done with this ban,” she told NTB.

“The outcome in the district court is also incredibly important in the battle against the use of tobacco products worldwide.”

Following in the footsteps of several other countries such as Ireland and Iceland, Norway in 2010 banned the display of cigarettes in stores in an attempt to cut impulse buys of tobacco products.

Cigarettes were banished to closed cases and cigarette dispensers do not show brand labels.

Philip Morris filed its lawsuit in March 2010 claiming the display ban was a violation of European Economic Area (EEA) rules and the Oslo district court requested an advisory opinion from the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) court before hearing the case.

That court said last September that the display ban could to a certain extent be seen as blocking the free movement of goods, thus violating EEA rules.

It also pointed out that Norway's aim to reduce tobacco consumption was in line with EEA regulations, thus leaving the final conclusion up to the Oslo court.

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Norway Post slapped with €11 million fine

Norway's postal service, Posten, was ordered on Wednesday to pay a fine of €11.112 million (83.87 million kroner, $14.54 million) after the EFTA court found it had abused its dominant market position.

Norway Post slapped with €11 million fine

Upholding a ruling from the EFTA Surveillance authority, the court of the European Free Trade Association said Norway Post had pursued an exclusivity strategy designed to keep competitors out of the lucrative market for business-to-consumer parcel services.

Noting that over-the-counter in-store services had become the predominant method for package delivery in Norway, the court said in a statement that "Norway Post’s share in the market remained close to or above 98 percent for the entirety of the relevant period."

The court said the anti-trust practices originated in framework agreements drawn up in 2001 with NorgesGruppen, Shell, Coop and Ica aimed at the establishment of a Post-in-Shop network.

Norway Post's deals with NorgesGruppen and Shell "specifically excluded competitors" from access to any outlets in those chains, the court said. 

In the cases of Coop and Ica, Posten was guaranteed exclusivity "in the outlets which hosted a Post-in-Shop."

These deals effectively precluded Posten's competitors from offering similar services in "approximately 50 percent of all outlets belonging to grocery store, kiosk and petrol station chains in Norway."

The court added that Norway Post is also facing an action for damages brought by its competitor DB Schenker/Privpak. That case is pending at the Oslo District Court.