On 17 March 2020 the government declared a state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the state of emergency, Competition Authority operations have continued. However, as office access is not permitted, only postal filings and submissions are accepted (ie, in-person filings are not allowed) and face-to-face meetings cannot be held. For now, the Competition Authority's filing and review deadlines remain unaffected.
The Competition Council recently took a stand regarding whether a situation in which a food retail company takes over a competitor's business premises and continues the same business activity in those premises constitutes a concentration. The council concluded that such situations should be notified as they are not considered concentrations according to the Competition Act.
The Competition Council has found that some provisions of the draft Law on Transport by Taxi breach the Competition Act. The council held that the provisions limited competition by imposing different conditions on identical transactions, thus putting some taxi drivers in a less favourable position.
The Competition Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina found that agreements concluded between the Ministry of Education, Science and Youth of the Canton of Sarajevo and the municipalities of Vogosca, Ilijas, Ilidza, Novo Sarajevo, Stari Grad, Novi Grad, Trnovo and Hadzici, relating to subsidised student transport services, were in breach of competition rules. As a result, the council imposed a fine of €13,000 on the ministry.
The Competition Authority has enacted secondary legislation based on the Competition Law. The Leniency Regulation explains the terms on which a party to a restrictive agreement may obtain a full exemption or reduced fine. The authority has also issued regulations on merger control, although its interpretation of the two merger thresholds - local and worldwide - arguably deviates from the rule set out in the law.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition (CPC) recently fined retail chain Kaufland Bulgaria Lev343,417 (approximately €175,000) for abuse of a superior bargaining position. The fine was requested by an alcohol producer. The CPC also established that by abusing its superior bargaining position, Kaufland had also violated the interests of consumers.
In August 2020 the Commission for the Protection of Competition (CPC) reopened its in-depth review of the sale of CEZ's Bulgarian assets to Eurohold. Based on the collected data in the course of the investigation, the CPC concluded that the merging of two large economic groups operating in the electricity and insurance sectors did not create or strengthen a dominant position of the affected markets in which the parties operate. The CPC unconditionally cleared the transaction.
From 1 January 2021, the Commission for the Protection of Competition (CPC) will be available for pre-notification discussions. To this end, the CPC has published rules for such contact. The CPC's rules on pre-notification contact are a step in the right direction in implementing best European practices on merger control. Nonetheless, it remains to be seen how practical they will be for the notifying parties.
The Supreme Administrative Court, acting as the second and final instance, recently repealed the Commission for the Protection of Competition's (CPC's) clearance for the acquisition of Pharmastore OOD by Sopharma Trading AD. In its decision, the Supreme Administrative Court ruled that the CPC had failed to analyse the de facto vertical links between Sopharma and CHS.
In October 2019 the Commission for the Protection of Competition (CPC) prohibited the Eurohold-CEZ merger due to its 'conglomerate' effect and the significant combined resources of the acquirer's and the target's groups, respectively. An administrative court recently repealed the prohibition on the grounds that the CPC formally opened in-depth proceedings but entirely omitted the in-depth investigation phase, thereby breaching Bulgarian law and the EU Merger Regulation.
The Croatian Competition Agency (CCA) recently closed the infringement proceedings against a tangerine reseller which had been opened ex officio to investigate potential unfair trade practices. The CCA penalised the tangerine reseller for violating the Act on the Prohibition of Unfair Commercial Practices in the Food Supply Chain by using its strong bargaining power. The CCA imposed a monetary fine of approximately €46,000 on the tangerine reseller.
The Croatian Competition Agency (CCA) recently closed the infringement proceeding against Croatia's largest insurer which had been opened ex officio. The proceeding concerned the exclusivity clauses in the insurer's commercial lease agreements; the CCA's main concern was that the clauses prevented landlords from cooperating with other insurers and thus restricted potential competition in the insurance market.
The government recently announced a phased plan to lift restrictions that were imposed in Croatia as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. While many sectors prepare to resume operations, the Croatian Competition Authority has been fully operational since 11 May 2020.
Over the past few years, European and national institutions have warned about the negative effects of unfair trading practices in the supply chain. In order to tackle these and regulate the risk of abuse, several countries have enacted distinct trade laws. Croatia recently followed suit by adopting a new Act on the Prohibition of Unfair Trading Practices in the Business-to-Business Food Supply Chain. The act defines the concept of 'significant buyer power', as well as different types of illegal behaviour.
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.
The Office for the Protection of Competition recently issued two press releases in which it confirmed one fine and imposed another on non-cooperative competitors, the first for an obstruction during a dawn raid and the second for not replying to a request for information. The fines demonstrate how important it is for companies to be aware of their procedural rights and obligations during investigations carried out by the office.
The Office for the Protection of Competition recently announced in a press release that it had imposed a Kc32 million (approximately €1.2 million) fine on Czech retail chain HRUŠKA, spol sro for an alleged abuse of significant market power. According to the press release, the retail chain allegedly violated the Significant Market Power Act by fully transferring all business risks and losses associated with the sale of goods nearing their expiration date to dozens of its suppliers between 2016 and 2019.
In 2017 the Office for the Protection of Competition imposed a gun-jumping fine of Kc4.9 million (approximately €190,000) on Armex Oil sro, a company active in the wholesale fuel market (gasoline and diesel). However, Armex Oil challenged the amount of the fine before the competent regional court, which found the fine to be disproportionate and reduced it. The office then filed an appeal with the Supreme Administrative Court, which ultimately backed the original fine.
In a first-instance decision, the Office for the Protection of Competition has fined RITCHY EU sro Kc6.7 million (€270,000) for resale price maintenance practices. According to the decision, RITCHY EU, a distributor of e-cigarettes and refills, violated the Act on the Protection of Competition between 6 September 2017 and 31 March 2019 by imposing on its customers minimum resale prices for the goods concerned.
The Office for the Protection of Competition recently fined the City of Prague Kc980,000 (approximately €36,981) for creating anti-competitive parking conditions for hybrid vehicles. According to the office's press release, between 17 April 2018 and 30 April 2019 the City of Prague violated the Act on the Protection of Competition by favouring the parking of certain hybrid vehicles in paid parking zones in its territory without objectively justifiable reasons.
The Hungarian Competition Authority's (HCA's) recent decision in an abuse of significant market power case against Spar has created a forward-looking solution which is unprecedented in such cases. As a proactive reparation for the competition infringement and in order to avoid an HCA fine, the supermarket chain will develop a new regional supply system. The programme will have a budget of HUF1.7 billion and will not only improve small producers' sales opportunities, but also create new jobs.
The planned merger of three banks into a new Hungarian bank holding (a so-called 'superbank') was announced in Spring 2020. Normally, such a merger would require competition authority approval. However, the government has issued a decree exempting the superbank's merger from competition scrutiny. The government held that the measure was required from a public interest standpoint in order to boost the Hungarian financial sector's competitiveness.
The Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) is one of the few competition enforcers in Europe with a prominent consumer protection enforcement practice. The HCA's holiday sales practice has tremendous potential to aid companies which aim to throw large-scale sales but at the same time intend to avoid large-scale fines. This article distils the HCA's recent practice into clear guidelines in order to assist companies with any sales or promotional campaigns.
In 2015 the Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) imposed a staggering fine on Auchan for abusing its significant market power. The HUF1,06 billion (approximately €3 million) fine is the highest ever imposed by the authority for the infringement of the Trade Act. Although the decision is from 2015, the Hungarian courts have only now put an end to the judicial review. The Supreme Court recently upheld the HCA's decision in its entirety.
The Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) recently initiated an investigation into TikTok, the popular social media platform. TikTok's capacity to generate vast amounts of consumer data and shower its users with ads has already sounded several alarm bells as regulators attempt to make sense of the phenomena that is digitalisation. The HCA took the initiative to scrutinise the platform with a focus on consumer protection.