Merger control is one of the Polish Office for Competition and Consumer Protection's main areas of activity, as it deals with 170 to 220 filings annually. Recent notable developments in this regard include proceedings initiated against Gazprom and its five partners involved in the financing and construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline and the unconditional approval of Cyfrowy Polsat's takeover of Netia.
The Ministry of Tourism recently proposed the introduction of minimum prices for sites categorised as 'accommodation places'. However, the Commission for Protection of Competition (CPC) opined on the proposal's compliance with competition rules. The CPC highlighted the fact that accommodation prices depend on many factors other than category, which makes it practically impossible to set a minimum price for a category that would be adequate in every case.
Following an examination by the Competition Protection Agency regarding unfair trading practices in the food supply chain, the government drafted a proposal to amend and supplement the Agriculture Act. Parliament accepted the amendment on March 22 2018 and it will enter into force on April 19 2018. Nevertheless, all of the changes in relation to the food supply chain (with the exception of fines) will apply from January 1 2019.
Almost eight months after the Act on Counteracting the Unfair Use of Contractual Advantage in Trade of Agricultural and Food Products came into effect, the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (OCCP) issued a decision regarding Cykoria SA's abusive practices. The case was closed with a commitment decision, which is unlikely to be appealed. Therefore, the courts will not provide their assessment of the OCCP's interpretation of some of the vaguer terms used in the act.
The Act for Amendment and Supplementation of the Competition Protection Act was recently promulgated in the State Gazette. The new act follows the scope of the EU Damages Directive and applies to infringements of the Competition Protection Act regarding prohibited agreements and abuse of dominance.
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.
The Competition Protection Agency recently published the results of a survey on unfair trading practices in the food supply chain, which the agency conducted among suppliers of food products, including producers, purchasers, processing companies and intermediaries. Despite the small number of responses, the agency obtained some useful information on the functioning of the Slovenian food market.
A recent Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) decision concerning Vodafone demonstrates that a reasonable cooperative approach may significantly affect the level of fine imposed on an undertaking, as the HCA reduced the fine imposed on Vodafone by more than 50% based solely on its cooperative measures. Although this case is unique, it signals that compliance and cooperation efforts which exceed the necessary legal requirements do not go unnoticed.
In a recent antitrust judgment, the Supreme Court provided an additional explanation of its approach to calculating fines in cases of collusion concerning resale prices (ie, resale price maintenance). Further, for the first time in its judicial practice, the Supreme Court provided general remarks concerning the privilege against self-incrimination that alleged infringers may claim.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition recently fined Laptop.BG for unfair practices in the form of contradicting genuine practices. An investigation was opened at the request of Golden Green Stone Group EOOD, the owner of online shopping brand eVarna, which claimed that a blogger had performed prohibited comparative advertising in favour of Laptop.BG, thereby damaging eVarna's reputation and consciously redirecting consumers to Laptop BG's online platforms.
The Competition Authority recently intensified its regional cooperation. Representatives of the authority met with colleagues from the Competition Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina and attended conferences organised by the competition authorities of Romania and Croatia. As a further step towards regional cooperation, there is a plan to establish the Competition Forum of the Western Balkans, with the aim of facilitating cooperation, enhancing harmonisation and improving national legislation.
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 Authority recently put the draft Technology Transfer Block Exemption Regulation forward for public debate. The draft regulation is aligned with the EU Regulation on the Application of Article 101(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union to Categories of Technology Transfer Agreements.
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 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.
The Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) was recently given significant new investigative powers under the framework of its merger control duties. Should parties decide not to submit a voluntary filing when meeting the voluntary notification threshold, the HCA can initiate an investigation on its own accord and undertake a fully fledged merger control proceeding. The HCA recently announced that it has commenced its first such ex officio merger control investigation.
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 Competition Authority, together with the Ministry for Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications, recently lodged an initiative for the new Competition Act, which will replace the Competition Act 2009. The goal is to harmonise the new act with EU rules while observing the specific demands of the Serbian market. Once the draft is ready, it will be presented for public debate. Further, the authority has issued three draft block regulations for public review and comment.
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.