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 European Commission recently announced temporary derogations from EU competition rules for the milk, potato and live plant and flower sectors. Shortly thereafter, the Bulgarian Commission for the Protection of Competition published on its website information about temporary derogations from the prohibition on competitors in these sectors entering into agreements or undertaking coordinated practices.
The government recently declared a national state of emergency as a result of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. This article outlines the impact of this declaration on Commission for the Protection of Competition (CPC) activities, including in relation to CPC operations and competition law enforcement.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition (CPC) recently introduced new merger filing guidelines. The former guidelines did not differentiate between transactions, despite potential competition concerns. The new guidelines address this practical problem and provide for two types of filing: a simplified merger filing for mergers that are unlikely to raise competition concerns and a more extensive merger filing for concentrations which are expected to significantly affect the relevant markets.
CEZ Bulgaria is not for sale. This seems to be the (implicit) conclusion of the Commission on the Protection of Competition's (CPC's) decision prohibiting Eurohold Bulgaria AD's acquisition of all of CEZ Group's Bulgarian assets. The CPC's decision came after a fast-track and in-depth proceeding (Phase II), which ended only 14 days after it was formally opened.
The Commission on the Protection of Competition (CPC) recently fined a snack distributor 4% of its annual turnover for the unfair solicitation of customers. The commission relied on its earlier practice to determine whether a promotional campaign launched by the distributor had infringed the Competition Protection Act. This decision is a helpful reminder that in order to avoid competition law violations, companies must carefully consider which prizes to offer in promotional campaigns.
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.
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 Constitutional Court recently upheld the Act on Significant Market Power, despite demands for its repeal by a group of senators almost four years ago. However, the court stated that the provision limiting the amount of suppliers' payments to customers with significant market power to 3% of the suppliers' annual sales is unconstitutional. This decision is of fundamental importance to future cooperation between suppliers and customers.
To facilitate the detection of anti-competitive behaviour, the Office for the Protection of Competition has proposed an amendment to the Act on Electronic Communication. Based on the amendment, the office would be entitled to request individual activity and location data (ie, date, time, mode of communication and duration) from mobile phone operators. However, access to this data would not be possible without prior judicial written permission.
The legality of on-site inspections (also known as dawn raids) carried out by the Office for the Protection of Competition at the premises of betting companies in early 2019 is currently under judicial review. For its part, the office maintains that dawn raids are an efficient tool for investigating possible competition law infringements. Moreover, it recently published an information letter on dawn raids and intervention actions on its website.
The Office for the Protection of Competition recently found two companies guilty of bid rigging in a public tender. While similar bid-rigging cases occur quite frequently and generally fall within the office's purview, this case is unique because, for the first time, the office was informed about the anti-competitive behaviour by a whistleblower and appointed a guardian for one of the parties involved.
The Office for the Protection of Economic Competition recently fined Czech health products supplier TCM Herbs Kc853,000 (approximately €33,500) for resale price maintenance (RPM). TCM Herbs has appealed the decision. The office has not issued an RPM decision in a long time. As such, the outcome of the review by its chair will be closely followed and hopefully indicative in terms of how (or if) the office will consider a more economic approach.
The Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) recently imposed a record fine on Booking.com BV for undertaking unfair commercial practices by misleadingly advertising certain hotel rooms with "free cancellation" and engaging in pressure selling. Although a surprise for many industry players, this decision aligns with the HCA's tendency to impose significantly higher fines in unfair commercial practice cases compared with previous years.
Parliament recently adopted a new act to ensure that the Competition Act fully complies with EU Directive 2019/1/EU (ECN+ Directive). The Hungarian legislature has chosen to apply most of the ECN+ Directive rules to all antitrust proceedings (ie, regardless of whether they are conducted under Hungarian or EU law). However, in certain cases, the scope of the new provisions will be limited to proceedings on an EU legal basis.
The government recently declared a state of emergency in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic and issued a special legal order. To date, no provision has been adopted under the special legal order allowing for a special exemption from the rules of competition law. Affected undertakings must therefore continue to pay attention to competition compliance. This article aims to help companies meet these requirements in view of the European Competition Network's recommendations.
In the past three months, three telecom giants received unexpectedly heavy fines from the Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) in consumer protection cases. In 2019 the HCA imposed more fines in total for unfair commercial practices against consumers than in cartel cases and, on the basis of its recent decisions, it looks likely to do the same in 2020. These recent decisions also show that repeated infringements are now subject to a stricter assessment.
Since 1 July 2014, companies have been able to initiate settlement proceedings with the Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA). Recent case law suggests that the HCA has aimed to foster cooperation between itself and market participants and is striving for cooperation even when market participants allegedly commit grave infringements of competition rule commitments.