The Constitutional Tribunal recently analysed regulations regarding dawn raids carried out by the Office for Competition and Consumer Protection and ruled that the respective law is not in line with the Constitution insofar as it excludes the possibility to challenge rulings allowing searches to be conducted. As a result, the Competition Act will be amended to provide searched undertakings with the possibility to appeal against Circuit Court consent to conduct searches.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition (CPC) recently cleared the acquisition of Nova Broadcasting Group AD by Advance Media Group EAD, which is owned by the well-known Bulgarian businesspeople Kiril and Georgi Domuschievi. The CPC was adamant that the proposed acquisition would not cause anti-competitive effects in the TV distribution market because the two companies are not direct competitors; rather, they have a de facto vertical relationship.
The Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) has launched a market study to explore the specific market developments relating to the application of digital comparison tools and their effects on consumers' decision making. The market study puts the HCA's mid-term digital consumer protection strategy paper into action and demonstrates the HCA's recent focus on consumer protection and efforts to serve as a lighthouse in the digital age.
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 Office for the Protection of Economic Competition recently reviewed vertical aspects of online platforms and distribution channels, ultimately fining online booking platform Booking.com approximately €0.33 million for using most-favoured-nation (MFN) clauses in its contracts with hotels. Although the decision has not yet been published, it is hoped that it will be instructive in terms of how the office examines the conditions under which MFN clauses may be considered anti-competitive.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition recently penalised Metro Cash & Carry for conducting an unfair comparative advertising campaign. Lidl Bulgaria EOOD had claimed that Metro's advertising campaign unfairly encouraged Lidl customers to shop at Metro instead. The case is a helpful reminder that companies designing advertising campaigns should carefully consider any direct or indirect references to their competitors, particularly if such references have negative connotations.
After a record-breaking Black Friday promotion, an online retailer is now suffering the consequences. According to the Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA), eMAG may have failed to meet the standards of professional diligence by misleading consumers with its 2018 Black Friday campaign. This action was one of the first to be initiated under the umbrella of the HCA's digital consumer protection strategy paper.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) recently granted Produkcija Plus doo (Pro Plus) €52,500 in compensation after its right to be heard was violated during proceedings relating to a fine imposed for obstructing a dawn raid. The ECHR stated, among other things, that even though the Supreme Court had been required to review the facts on which the fine was based, the court had not heard the evidence requested by Pro Plus.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition (CPC) recently imposed a Lev840,340 fine on A1 Bulgaria for cancelling a partnership agreement with its main commercial representative, Handy-Tel EOOD. The CPC held that the cancellation had effectively violated Article 37a(1) of the Protection of Competition Act, which prohibits the abuse of a dominant position when contracting.
The Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) recently published a strategy paper presenting its views on consumer protection in the digital age. The paper subtly indicates that the HCA will continue to follow the European Commission's guidance in this regard. It also highlights the measures which the HCA deems necessary to protect consumers and keep up with the developments and companies central to this process.
The Bosnia and Herzegovina Competition Council will apply new tariffs as from November 2018. Among these, the most significant are the increased merger control clearance fees, which have doubled. The council took inspiration for the new tariffs from those of other regional competition authorities, including the Serbian and Montenegrin commissions.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition (CPC) recently approved the acquisition of Rapido Express and Logistics OOD by its competitor Speedy AD. However, at the same time, the CPC penalised Speedy AD for failing to provide complete and accurate information in its concentration notification which the commission deemed materially and substantially important for evaluating the deal.
The Office for the Protection of Competition recently adopted new guidelines on the method of setting fines for competition law infringements. The new guidelines are intended to underline the repressive and preventive function of fines. As a result, undertakings can expect higher fines for infringements of competition rules than under the previous regime.
One year has passed since the Act on Counteracting the Unfair Use of Contractual Advantage in the Trade of Agricultural and Food Products entered into force. The act aimed to protect small farmers and grocery suppliers against the abuse of power by large supermarkets and chain stores. The government recently adopted an amendment to the act which will allow the Office for Competition and Consumer Protection to intervene in cases involving smaller farmers.
In recent years, the Hungarian Competition Authority (HCA) has seemingly aimed to foster cooperation between itself and market participants. Recent case law shows that the HCA strives for cooperation even when market participants allegedly commit grave infringements of the competition rules. Market participants are advised to harness this tendency and the HCA's willingness to reach decisions more efficiently.
In 2017 the Competition Protection Agency initiated proceedings against Renault. The company was suspected of treating authorised mechanics and independent mechanics differently, which gave the agency grounds to believe that Renault had abused its dominant position. In response, Renault proposed remedies in an attempt to address the agency's concerns and eliminate the alleged anti-competitive effects on the market. The agency recently closed the proceedings and accepted the commitments.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition (CPC) recently prohibited two concentrations in politically sensitive sectors (media and energy). The CPC's decisions were widely criticised for lacking valid economic arguments. Further, in both decisions the CPC limited its legal arguments to several paragraphs and failed to clarify how acquiring non-competitors (or at least non-major competitors) could strengthen the resulting group's dominant position and thus impede competition.
The Serbian Competition Authority has initiated ex officio antitrust proceedings against Serbia Broadband – Srpske kablovske mreže doo Belgrade on grounds of suspected abuse of dominance. This is the first case in which the authority has initiated abuse of dominance proceedings based on soft behavioural remedy (ie, the obligation to report prices).
The Serbian Competition Authority and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development have launched an initiative to establish a regional competition forum. The forum will include all Western Balkan states (Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania) and two EU member states (Slovenia and Croatia). The Centre for Liberal-Democratic Studies has been enlisted as a consultant to help design, implement and manage the forum's operations.