The Competition Authority recently ended an investigation into the exchange of prospective prices between pork meat producers, meat processors and slaughter houses with no finding of anti-competitive practice. This is the first Competition Authority decision to validate an information exchange scheme involving (but not limited to) competitors. As such, more straightforward guidance from the authority on how this case differs from prior cases and justifies such a benign approach would have been welcomed.
The Competition Authority recently issued a preliminary facts assessment regarding its investigation into whether the Association of Portuguese Psychologists' code of ethics breaches competition law. In order to address the authority's concerns, the association has proposed certain commitments that, if accepted, will allow the case to be closed without any finding of infringement.
The Competition Authority recently published for public consultation its preliminary findings on competition in the port sector, which is expected to result in a set of recommendations for promoting competition. In light of the overarching impact of future recommendations and the strategic and economic importance of the sector, significant participation of stakeholders is expected.
The Competition Authority recently announced its first settlement in the context of a fining procedure relating to merger control, with significant fine reductions for the offenders. The settlement mechanism is not limited to cartel investigations, but is potentially applicable to any administrative offence investigation for breach of competition law.
The legislation on so-called 'individual commercial practices' was recently revised, with the new regime comprising important amendments to the substantive provisions on the range and scope of prohibited conduct, particularly in relation to below-cost selling and abusive business practices. However, some of the provisions adopted in the new law are ambiguous and difficult to reconcile with fundamental civil law principles.
Over the past 10 years, the filing of notifications triggered by ex officio proceedings has been a common feature of the Portuguese competition landscape. In contrast, the imposition of fines for failure to notify has remained rare. However, the Competition Authority recently imposed a significant fine on the National Pharmacy Association and two subsidiaries for implementing a concentration without prior authorisation.
In numerous jurisdictions leniency has become an important investigative tool for competition authorities, but in Portugal the leniency regime has had a somewhat underwhelming performance in recent years. The reform brought about by the Competition Act should spark renewed interest in the leniency regime, bringing forth new opportunities.
It is relatively rare for Portugal's competition regulator to have recourse to recommendations that are directly linked to infringement investigations. However, two recent cases demonstrate its pragmatic approach to issuing recommendations. The proposal for a new Competition Act promises to provide significantly greater detail and clarification in this area.
Portugal's competition regulator has issued a report on commercial relations in the grocery retail sector. Despite predicting a rise in countervailing buyer power, the report is positive overall. Among other things, the final recommendations seek to address a perceived imbalance in negotiating position between large retail groups and their suppliers, although some of the issues that the report raises arguably lie beyond the bounds of competition law.
The Competition Authority has ruled on two significant points in assessing the scope of and responsibility for merger notifications: the issue of interrelated transactions and the issue of which undertakings should notify a concentration involving a change of controlling shareholders of an existing joint venture.
The Competition Authority has approved the acquisition of the regional airline Portugália by the state-owned carrier Transportes Aéreos Portugueses. The remedies imposed as conditions of clearance are mostly behavioural and are designed to ensure that it is practicable and economically feasible for new competitors to enter the market on any of the routes concerned.