THE European Commission (EC) has opened a formal investigation to assess whether national operator Renfe may have abused its dominant position in the Spanish passenger rail market by refusing to supply all its content and real-time data to rival ticketing platforms.

Renfe sells its tickets offline and online directly via its websites, apps and mobility platform, or indirectly through third-party ticketing platforms.

The commission is concerned that Renfe may have restricted competition by refusing to provide third-party ticketing platforms with complete information concerning its range of tickets, discounts and features, as well as real-time travel data.

Renfe currently offers its content and real-time data on its own websites and apps but may have refused to directly provide access to this information to the third-party ticketing platforms. As these platforms display offers from different operators and provide customers with online price comparison services, the EC says they need access to Renfe’s full content and real-time data to tailor their offers to passengers’ needs.

The commission is concerned that Renfe’s alleged refusal to supply this content and real-time data may prevent the platforms from competing with Renfe’s own direct digital channels to the detriment of passengers. If proven, the behaviour may breach EU competition rules, which prohibit the abuse of a dominant position.

The commission says that it will now carry out its in-depth investigation as a matter of priority but says the opening of a formal investigation does not prejudge its outcome.

In parallel to the opening of proceedings, the commission has adopted a Preliminary Assessment summarising the main facts of the case and identifying its competition concerns. Renfe may now submit commitments to address the commission’s concerns.

“Competition in the online rail ticketing market is crucial to ensure customers’ access to affordable rail services and to promote environmentally-friendly means of transport,” says EC executive vice-president in charge of competition policy, Ms Margrethe Vestager. “This is why we have been investigating whether Renfe’s alleged refusal to provide rival ticketing platforms with all the information necessary to fine-tune their offers to customers would restrict and distort competition, to the ultimate detriment of consumers.”