China: SAIC Publishes First Boycott Case: Trade Association Again In Spotlight (In Chinese)

Last Updated: 23 March 2016
Article by Michael Gu

根据2015年12月8日国家工商行政管理总局( "工商总局")公布的处罚决定,广东省工商行政管理局( "广东省工商局 ")对广州市番禺动漫游艺行业协会( "动漫游艺协会 ")的垄断行为处以10万元罚款。这是中国反垄断执法机构首次针对联合抵制交易行为做出的处罚。

根据处罚决定,本案中广东省工商局并非像通常案件由接到第三方举报而引发调查,而是基于2013年3月13日《广州日报》刊登的一篇报道而对动漫游艺协会展开了调查。该报道称动漫游艺协会与其52家会员企业共同签署了一份《展会联盟协议书》。该协议书明确规定所有会员不得参加与动漫游艺产业无关的或动漫游艺协会认为不能参加的展会。

经过初步调查,广东省工商局认为动漫游艺协会的行为违反了《中华人民共和国反垄断法》( "《反垄断法》 ")。2014年7月21日,经工商总局授权,广东省工商局对动漫游艺协会涉嫌垄断行为正式立案调查。

经进一步调查,广东省工商局认定,由于该协议书的各签署方均是同业竞争者,且该协议书的签订是为了实施联合抵制交易的行为,产生了限制、排除竞争的效果,该协议书构成《反垄断法》第13条所规定的垄断协议。据此,广东省工商局对动漫游艺协会处以10万元罚款并责令停止该违法行为。

垄断协议的认定

在处罚决定中,广东省工商局列举了横向垄断协议的三个构成要件:(1) 经营者之间存在竞争关系;(2) 经营者达成了协议、决定或者其他协同行为;(3) 经营者达成的协议、决定或者其他协同行为具有排除、限制竞争的效果。广东省工商局在其处罚决定中对每个构成要件均进行了详细分析。

首先,签署《展会联盟协议书》的52家会员企业均来自动漫游艺行业,彼此间在广州市区域内存在明显的竞争关系,应被认定为同行业内的竞争者。

其次,《展会联盟协议书》的签署是一个既定事实。52家会员企业,通过签署该协议书承诺联合抵制广州市区域内除动漫游艺协会主导、主办或者承办的动漫展会之外的其他动漫展会。

再次,广东省工商局认为该协议限制了会员企业自由参加展览会的权利,对动漫游戏展会行业应有的自由竞争产生了现实或潜在的影响和制约。动漫游艺协会辩称,该协议书签署后,其会员企业既没有实际上根据该协议书抵制参加其他展会,同时动漫游艺协会也并未通过任何方式对会员企业参加展会加以干涉,因此该协议书并没有实际执行。广东省工商局并没有接受动漫游艺协会的这一抗辩理由,因为该协议的签订已经导致会员企业参与展会的自由选择权在很大程度上被限制,这必然会损害正常的竞争秩序。因此,广东省工商局认定该《展会联盟协议书》具有实质上或潜在的反竞争效果。

综上所述,《展会联盟协议书》被认定为典型的违反《反垄断法》的垄断协议。

行业协会的主导作用

动漫游艺协会作为番禺市动漫游艺行业的行业协会,对《展会联盟协议书》的签订,起到了组织和推动作用。

《反垄断法》第十六条规定"行业协会不得组织本行业的经营者从事本章禁止的垄断行为"。《工商行政管理机关禁止垄断协议行为的规定》第九条第二项也规定"禁止行业协会以下列方式组织本行业的经营者从事本规定禁止的垄断协议行为:(二)召集、组织或者推动本行业的经营者达成含有排除、限制竞争内容的协议、决议、纪要、备忘录等"。本案中,动漫游艺协会起草了《展会联盟协议书》,并向其会员企业征集签名盖章。该协议书还规定,会员若要参加非该协会主导、主办或承办的动漫游戏展会,需经该协会事先书面批准。这意味着动漫游艺协会通过该协议深度介入并制约了相关会员企业的正常经营活动,对市场竞争产生不利影响。

动漫游艺协会抗辩称,《展会联盟协议书》是应会员企业的要求起草的,目的是为了减少会员企业参加展会的数量,其不应仅仅因为记录了会员企业的要求而被认定为该协议的组织者。广东省工商局则认为,作为行业协会,动漫游艺协会应当清楚认识到该行为是否属于其自身的职责范围,以及该行为是否会产生违法的后果,应成员企业的要求而起草该协议并不是一个有效的抗辩理由。

评论

本案是中国反垄断执法机构执法历史上公布的首例联合抵制交易案,但行业协会并非违反反垄断法的"初犯"。事实上,行业协会长期以来都处于反垄断执法的风口浪尖。例如,截止2015年12月初的工商总局反垄断执法史上共结案34起,其中就有10起案件涉及行业协会。同样,国家发展与改革委员会( "发改委")近年来也调查了几起备受关注的涉及行业协会的卡特尔案件。例如,2014年,发改委因上海黄金饰品行业协会组织五家金店联合操纵饰品价格而对该行业协会做出了处罚。同年,发改委查明浙江保险行业协会组织浙江省内23家财产保险公司于2009年至2011年期间多次协调、达成并实施固定机动车保险费率及代理手续费的横向垄断协议。

尽管行业协会不会被认定为市场中的经营者,但这并不意味着行业协会不受到反垄断法的规制。上述2014年的两起案件中,涉案的两家行业协会都被处以《反垄断法》中所规定的最高罚款额即人民币50万元。而本案中动漫游艺协会仅被处以人民币10万元的罚款。不同案件中罚款金额的差异有其各自的原因,如本案中动漫游艺协会可能是由于积极配合调查的态度而避免了更高额的罚款。然而,仅仅人民币10万元的罚款似乎并不能称为严格意义上的"处罚",因为其很难起到"处罚"本应具有的威慑及警示作用。

除此之外,由于处罚决定对参与垄断协议的52家会员企业是否受到处罚的情况并未予以说明,难免使得公众对此产生疑问。从反垄断执法的角度看,签署、实施联合抵制交易协议的会员企业也应当受到处罚,即使免于处罚,那么公布的处罚决定中也应说明相应的豁免理由及相关程序。尽管本次处罚决定中没有提及参与垄断协议的经营者的法律责任,这仅应被解读为行业协会因其组织并推动联合抵制交易的行为应受到惩处,不应被误读为参与联合抵制交易协议的经营者对垄断协议不需要承担责任。

此外,中国竞争执法机构在分析横向垄断协议时以往通常会适用本身违法原则。本身违法原则是指,协议只要经签署、实施就会被认定为违法,无需考虑其是否实际对竞争产生不利影响。然而,本案中广东省工商局似乎适用了合理原则对垄断协议进行分析。合理原则即判断某一行为是否属于垄断协议时,执法机构不仅要查明相关协议实际已达成、实施,而且还需要实际论证该协议具有排除、限制竞争的效果。

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