European Union: CEE: EU & Competition Monthly Bulletin - September 2018

Stay informed about the latest developments in competition law in Central and Eastern Europe with Schoenherr's multi-jurisdictional newsletter. Each issue offers insight into developments in merger control, anti-trust, as well as public and private enforcement in the region.

MERGER CONTROL

Belgium/EU: European Commission (EC) clears Shazam/Apple merger unconditionally

  • On 6 September the EC announced that the proposed acquisition of the music recognition software provider Shazam by Apple was cleared unconditionally after a Phase II review.
  • In March this year the EC initiated proceedings after receiving referrals from seven national competition authorities, including Austria's competition authority (BWB).
  • The EC assessed whether the acquisition would allow Apple to obtain sensitive data of competing music streaming platforms' customers, which could enable Apple to persuade them to switch to its own Apple Music streaming platform. Another part of the investigation was the potential harm to Apple's competitors in music streaming services if Apple were to discontinue referrals from Shazam to streaming services other than Apple Music.
  • The EC ultimately found that obtaining Shazam's data would not enable Apple to foreclose on its competitors' music streaming services from the market and thus the merger raises no competition concerns.

Bulgaria: First sanction for incomplete information in merger notification

  • Through Decision No 1046 / 20.09.18, the Commission for Protection of the Competition (the "CPC") authorised the acquisition of sole control by Speedy AD of Rapid Express and Logistics OOD and ordered immediate enforcement of its decision (Bulgarian press release can be found on www.cpc.bg).
  • At the same time, the CPC imposed a sanction on Speedy AD for not providing full and accurate information at the date of submission of the merger notification, which was essential for the overall assessment of the concerned relevant markets. The relevant information had been obtained from a competitor.
  • The sanction imposed is approx. EUR 102,000, which represents 0.2 % of the total turnover of the sanctioned undertaking.
  • This is the first ever such sanction imposed in Bulgaria. The decision of the CPC can be appealed before the Supreme Administrative Court.

CARTEL PROHIBITION

Austria: Semperit fined EUR 1.6 million for market sharing within a JV

  • Semperit, a company active in the rubber and plastics industry, was fined EUR 1.6m for violating the cartel prohibition (German press release of the BWB can be found here).
  • As part of its production joint venture with Sri Trang Agro-Industry, it was agreed that the European market would be reserved exclusively to Semperit. the unlawful agreement lasted from the establishment of the JV in 2002 to 2017.
  • Sri Trang Agro-Industry was granted immunity from fines following its leniency application in 2015.

Czech Republic: Rail freight transporters fined for bid-rigging

  • In a first-instance decision the Czech Competition Authority ("CCA") found that Rail Cargo Austria AG, České dráhy, a.s. (Czech Railways) and AWT Čechofracht a.s. acted in breach of EU and Czech competition rules by illegally cooperating in the rail freight transport project Italia (Czech press release of the CCA can be found here).
  • Rail Cargo Austria AG was granted immunity from fines following its leniency application. The fines of the remaining cartelists were significantly reduced following a settlement procedure (CZK 3.7m (approx. EUR 145k) for AWT Čechofracht and CZK 48m (approx. EUR 1.9m) for Czech Railways).
  • The decision is not yet final; further details of the case will be communicated by the CCA once the decision has become binding.

Hungary: Substantial reduction of medical equipment bid rigging fine

  • The Hungarian competition authority (Gazdasági Versenyhivatal; "GVH") found that GE Hungary Kft and Silver Wood – IT Kft had entered into an agreement to determine the winner of a tender in May 2015.
  • Because of the cooperation of both undertakings with the GVH during the process the total fine was reduced by more than HUF 10m. According to an GVH press release, the reduction is a result of GE Hungary Kft. submitting a leniency application and Silver Wood – IT Kft. acknowledging the statement of facts established by the GVH. In Addition, Silver Wood – IT Kft introduced a compliance programme.
  • Due to the leniency application GE Hungary Kft received immunity from fines and Silver Wood – IT Kft was fined a total of HUF 2.6m (approx. EUR 8 k) including a reduction of 35 %.

Moldova: Three construction companies fined for bid rigging

  • According to its Romanian language press release, the Moldovan Competition Council (CC) fined Ozun-Cons SRL, Oztor SRL and Eurodeviz SRL a total of MDL 0.78m (EUR 0.04m) for bid rigging in several construction tenders in 2012.

Romania: Market for non-prescription medicine and dietary supplements under scrutiny

  • Romania's Competition Council (CC) has commenced a sector inquiry into non-prescription medicines and food supplements and therefore has opened an investigation.
  • The agency put forward a press release in which it made clear that in case the suspicion will turn out to be true, the CC may ask existing regulations to be amended, issue clarifications, or even send warnings to companies.
  • Investigations of the CC will be focusing on screening the market's structural conditions. Therefore, it needs information of both the producers and suppliers the agency said.

Serbia: Four new cartel probes against baby care companies have been opened

  • Serbia's antitrust agency suspects illegal price-fixing in the market for baby care products and therefore opened four additional investigations into ten companies (see here for the agency's press release).
  • The latest preoccupation comes from two other probes in the same market started in April earlier this year. Premises of importers and distributors of baby and infant products were raided because of the suspicion of illegally maintaining prices.
  • To the agency this is a major concern because this market has "special significance" for consumers and society. Hence, the agency plans to conduct a sector inquiry as well.

Slovakia: Slovakia's Antimonopoly Office (SAO) has opened an e-commerce sector inquiry

  • In a recent press release, the agency stresses the importance to ensure that competition law is correctly applied in this important sector.
  • Between 2015 and 2016, the European Commission conducted a similar sector inquiry into the e-commerce sector and identified various antitrust concerns.
  • The goal is to identify possible issues regarding competition law. Questionnaires will serve as a medium to obtain information on the given subject. These will be send to a wide range of recipients, including mainly e-commerce retailers.

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