In September 2017 the Competition Authority officially closed the investigation into the mobile phone retail market which it opened following three complaints regarding alleged coordinated practices and potential abuse of dominant position. The authority issued a number of recommendations and intends to continue to monitor the mobile phone retail market until October 2018.
The Competition Authority recently initiated an investigation into the mobile phone market in connection with alleged coordinated practices and potential abuse of the dominant position of the market players. It had been alleged that three telecommunications operators had coordinated a change in standard pre-paid packages.
In 2016 the Competition Authority issued 52 decisions relating to merger control, abuse of dominance and restrictive practices. No fines were imposed in any of the decisions. The authority also reviewed and commented on numerous legislation proposals, including the production and marketing of tobacco and cigarettes and airport fees.
The Competition Authority recently introduced a number of new bylaws. The bylaws aim to regulate short-form procedures on the assessment of concentrations, commitment procedures and the administration of electronic data during Competition Authority inspections.
The Competition Authority recently initiated ex officio proceedings against MIKA KORÇA JSC. MIKA KORÇA holds a dominant position on the tobacco market as the sole Albanian company exporting tobacco products and the only purchaser of tobacco from farmers. The authority has established that the prices at which farmers sell tobacco does not cover their high production costs, and that the average price paid by MIKA KORÇA is lower than the average price paid in the European Union.
The Competition Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina recently set out its objectives and priorities for 2018 in its 2018 Work Programme. One of the council's medium-term objectives is to make market regulation more efficient with the aim of strengthening competition protection. The council has also stressed its dedication to improving its expertise and administrative capacity.
The process for appointing new Competition Council members is now complete and operational. Specific and complex rules exist for the composition of the council and for it to pass decisions. Among other things, there must be two members representing each of the three constituent ethnic groups of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ie, two Serbs, two Bosnians and two Croatians).
The Competition Council's main activities in 2016 included issuing opinions and conducting proceedings pursuant to requests filed by undertakings or ex officio. A total of 50% of the cases filed were processed in 2016, while the remaining cases have been carried over to 2017. The council's total income from administrative fees in 2016 was KM234,574 (approximately €115,000), while collected fines reached KM624,492 (approximately €610,000).
The Competition Council aims to improve its quality system in order to comply with EU legislation and enhance competition law enforcement in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The council's recently published work programme outlines its objectives and priorities for 2017 and ensures its transparency for business and expert communities. The council has stressed that certain issues may arise in the implementation of the work programme, which may affect relevant tasks and activities.
In a decision that could have significant implications on future practice, the Competition Authority recently reviewed non-compete obligations between parties to a merger. The concentration was cleared unconditionally. However, the non-compete obligations were considered to be severe restrictions of competition and the authority refused individual exemptions.
The Competition Commission recently sent statements of objection for abuse of dominant position by three electricity distribution and supply companies. According to the commission, allegations were made that the companies had traded information regarding customers switching from the regulated market to the liberal market in order to purposely stall the necessary paperwork.
A recent competition breach by the Sofia Commodity Exchange AD resulted in a 0% fee for purchasers (ie, members of the exchange). The Supreme Administrative Court and the Competition Commission both held that the lack of fees had placed purchasers in a more favourable position, leading to unfair competition which contradicted good-faith practices. In addition to a fine based on the net turnover of sales, the commission ordered the immediate suspension of the exchange's breaching activities.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition (CPC) recently adopted an opinion on the draft act for the amendment of the Administrative Procedure Code. The CPC supports the introduction of electronic justice which, in its view, will increase the efficiency of the judiciary system and prevent unnecessary delays. However, it disagrees with the increase in state fees and the proposal that the state fee for cassation is to be defined as a percentage of the imposed penalty.
For the second time in less than five years the Commission for the Protection of Competition has opened investigation proceedings regarding prohibited agreements and concerted practices against the major fuel companies in Bulgaria and closed them without issuing penalties. An investigation was launched and the commission found that the retail price of some petrol companies in Bulgaria does not always follow the wholesale price and producers' prices.
The Competition Protection Commission recently fined Kaufland Bulgaria EOOD for abuse of stronger bargaining power regarding its supplier, Keti-94 OOD. This is the second commission decision relating to abuse of bargaining power – a concept introduced into Bulgarian legislation in July 2015. The commission found Kaufland's breach to be severe and imposed a 7% fine generated from Kaufland's turnover on the market for sales of low-priced alcohol.
In July 2015 the Competition Agency received an initiative to initiate proceedings against Ytong porobeton (YP) for alleged abuse of its dominant position. YP rejected all of the assertions against it, arguing that the relevant market had been incorrectly determined. Based on expert opinions, the agency concluded that YP was not dominant on the relevant market and thus that it had not abused its dominant position.
In a recent case the Competition Agency for the first time accepted the proposed commitments in a case conducted under the qualification of a prohibited agreement, even though all the characteristics of a prohibited horizontal agreement limiting competition were present. By accepting the commitments, the agency abandoned its previous position in favour of a more lenient one.
In a recent ruling by the Croatian Competition Agency (CCA), a decision by the Croatian Insurance Bureau to revoke the power of an insurer to issue motor certificates was found not to constitute a prohibited agreement. Irrespective of this, the CCA noted that it is not the role of undertakings to control the operation of their competitors, and that the parties involved should have reported the insurer if they thought it had breached the law.
The Competition Agency is improving its track record in competition law enforcement. One recent decision concerned a cartel of marina operators which exchanged information on future pricing policies for berthing services. Although the parties agreed not to raise the prices of their services (or to raise them minimally), the information exchange was deemed sufficient for the agency to render a statement of objections.
The Competition Agency recently considered whether Gemicro abused its dominant position on the market by allegedly tailoring and concluding 'non-poaching' agreements with the leasing companies which were its buyers, thereby restricting competition and creating significant barriers to entry into the relevant market. This is the first time that the agency has examined this type of agreement as problematic.
The Czech Competition Authority (CCA) recently published an information paper on dawn raids during its annual competition law conference. The paper aims to provide guidance explaining the powers and privileges of CCA officials in the course of a dawn raid and a brief overview of the case law relating to dawn raids, focusing on judicial review of the legality of dawn raids carried out after the European Court of Human Rights' judgment in Delta Pekárny.
With the introduction of the Damages Act, the Czech Republic has finally implemented the EU Damages Directive, which establishes common EU rights for cartel victims seeking damages. The Damages Act introduces many novelties into national law, which aim to improve the procedural status of citizens and businesses that claim compensation before the national courts for damages caused by an infringement of EU or national antitrust rules.
The Office for the Protection of Competition recently fined Czech mobile operators Vodafone Czech Republic as and O2 Czech Republic as a total of Kr99 million after it deemed an agreement on an exclusive, direct interconnection between the two operators included in a 2001 interconnection agreement to be anti-competitive. Another case in the telecoms sector which was originally initiated by the office is now under the jurisdiction of the European Commission.
While the 2016 amendment to the Significant Market Power Act sought to remove and clarify ambiguous provisions within the act and generally provide greater protection to suppliers, several provisions remained vague and were thus open to interpretation. As such, the Office for the Protection of Competition recently issued an information letter to clarify and explain the changes introduced by the amendment.
The Prague Municipal Court recently dismissed the private damages action brought by private railway passenger carrier LEO Express against publicly owned national incumbent Czech Railways due to a lack of evidence. Although the judgment is not publicly available, the available information already raises the question of whether it might shed a negative light on the future of private enforcement of competition law in the Czech Republic.