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 forthcoming amendment to the Act on the Protection of Competition will make several changes to Competition Authority practices. Among other things, the amendment will introduce prioritisation into its practices, allowing the authority to decide not to initiate administrative proceedings following certain alleged breaches of the act where those breaches have a minor effect on competition.
In a recent repeated first instance decision, the Competition Authority imposed a fine of approximately Kr93.1 million (approximately €3.7 million) on Telefónica Czech Republic for abuse of its dominant position in the public telephone services market in relation to undertakings through fixed lines. The authority increased the original fine imposed on Telefónica for such anti-competitive conduct by more than Kr11.4 million.
The Brno Regional Court has defined for the first time the rules that govern access by investigated undertakings to the leniency applications contained in the Competition Authority's administrative file during cartel investigations. The court allowed special treatment for leniency applications, ruling that the authority need not provide justification when restricting or denying access to the administrative file.
The president of the Office for the Protection of Competition recently issued a second-instance decision confirming the authority's decision to fine Sokolovská uhelná for its participation in a vertical agreement. The fine amounted to Kr17.3 million (approximately €700,000) and is the highest ever to be imposed by the authority for participation in a vertical agreement.
The Office for the Protection of Competition recently approved the acquisition of a Czech construction company by a leading central European construction company. The office also imposed fines on a Czech brown coal mining company and a Czech producer of mineral water and soft drinks for the conclusion and performance of restricted export prohibition agreements.
The government recently exempted the state-owned national electricity provider and an energy company from having to fulfil merger control obligations before their intended merger. According to the relevant government decree, the concentration was of national strategic importance, as it facilitated affordable energy supply for consumers. This exemption is not unprecedented under Hungarian competition law.
The Hungarian Competition Authority recently imposed one of its highest-ever fines on the Hungarian Banking Association for the anti-competitive exchange of information. Evidently, even activities in which market participants regularly engage and which they regard as lawful may help to reduce uncertainty in the market. This update provides an insight into anti-competitive information exchanges in order to minimise this risk.
The Hungarian Competition Authority (GVH) recently launched a promotion campaign for its leniency programme, emphasising that "a cartel will not stay hidden, but one may get away with a leniency application". In light of these great efforts on the GVH's part, it is crucial to examine the benefits and drawbacks of the leniency programme from the undertaking's perspective.
Swift, simple and less burdensome proceedings with a 10% reduction in fines – these are the benefits that the Hungarian Competition Authority chose to emphasise in its recent notice on the settlement procedure. Although the notice generally aligns with the relevant EU rules, it contains noteworthy deviations which may fundamentally affect its application.
The act amending the Competition Act was recently published in the Official Gazette. The new act will bring about the long-awaited reorganisation of the Competition Authority (currently organised as an administrative body within the Ministry for Economic Affairs) as an independent agency. The authority will be governed by the Agency Council, the Competition Council and the agency director.
The Competition Protection Office recently initiated ex officio merger control proceedings against the Federation of Slovenian Retired Persons' Societies. According to the office, the federation had acquired control over Vzajemna Zdravstvena zavarovalnica dvz, a Slovenian mutual health insurance company, but failed to notify the concentration within the statutory 30-day time limit.
In August 2008 the Competition Protection Office found that five Slovenian electricity distributors had breached competition rules by way of a simultaneous price rise. Recently an interesting epilogue was added to the decision: a private initiative led by a Slovenian economist has set a precedent for the future private enforcement of damages in cases of antitrust violations where the harm caused is substantial but widespread.
According to public speculation, one of the participants in the alleged cartel between a number of Slovenian construction companies - currently under investigation by the Slovenian Competition Protection Office - applied for immunity from a fine in exchange for certain disclosures which reportedly enabled the office to conduct effectively a series of recent dawn raids at the premises of the companies.