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EU regulators drop Thomson Reuters antitrust probe

A flag displaying the Thomson Reuters logo flies outside a company building.

Lisa Poole/AP

European Union regulators dropped an antitrust investigation into Thomson Reuters Corp. on Thursday after the company made it easier for customers using its financial instrument codes to switch to competing services.

The European Commission said its ruling meant the news and information company would not be penalized and that there was no finding or admission of guilt in the settlement.

"The commitments offered by Thomson Reuters will enhance competition in this market. Financial institutions that use Reuters Instrument Codes will now be able to switch to alternative providers more easily," EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a statement.

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The Commission said Thomson Reuters offered to create a new licence which will allow customers to use the codes for data sourced from its rivals.

The EU opened the investigation in 2009, saying that Thomson Reuters may have abused its dominant position in financial data by preventing customers from using its codes – used to identify specific stocks, bonds, currencies and other assets – to get data from rivals and cross-reference them.

The case is part of an effort by EU regulators to ensure that traders and other users can get access to financial data at reasonable rates and be able to switch to competing services.

Thomson Reuters had offered a variety of concessions to ease regulatory concerns, with the latest round proposed in May. It is these proposals that have now been accepted.

The Commission and Thomson Reuters' competitors argued that the company's control of access to 'Reuters Instrument Codes' to tag assets reduced competition in the market for financial data.

Reuters news agency is part of Thomson Reuters.

In December last year, Thomson Reuters offered to open the classification of codes to competitors for a licensing fee, but competitors and trading firms sought more.

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The company subsequently proposed in July to reduce licence fees and simplify the fee structure for the RIC system, which is used to search and map data, and let users use the codes for instruments traded over the counter.

Credit rating agency Standard & Poor's also settled with the Commission last year following an investigation into its fees for its proprietary data. The two cases underlined the watchdog's wider look into financial data.

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