* EU Commission ends probe into financial instrument codes
* Says concessions make it easier to switch to competition
By Foo Yun Chee
BRUSSELS, Dec 20 (Reuters) - European Union regulators dropped an antitrust investigation into Thomson Reuters 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 penalised, and 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 (RIC) will now be able to switch to alternative providers more easily,” EU Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said in a statement.
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 RIC 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 prices and be able to switch to competing services.
The Commission said Thomson Reuters had offered to create a new licence which would allow customers to use its RIC codes for data sourced from rivals.
Thomson Reuters welcomed the Commission’s decision.
In December last year, Thomson Reuters offered to open the classification of codes to competitors for a licencing fee, but competitors and trading firms sought more.
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 the codes be used for instruments traded over the counter.
Reuters news agency is part of Thomson Reuters.
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.