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17 April 2020
newsletter
austria

National competition authorities' advisory and enforcement in the context of COVID-19

 

AUT

Advisory: In line with the joint statement by the ECN, the BWB points to the necessity of cooperation between undertakings in order to ensure a continued supply of scarce products. Such temporary cooperation measures to guarantee supplies during the COVID-19 health emergency must be taken "where necessary, after appropriately involving consumers and in order to improve the production or distribution of goods".

  • Enforcement: None

BUL

Advisory:

In addition to the joint statement by the ECN, the Bulgarian Commission for Protection of Competition (CPC) made the following clarifications concerning the application of antitrust rules during the COVID-19 crisis:

  • The CPC will offer timely informal guidance on specific initiatives taken by undertakings in connection with the COVID-19 crisis.
  • The CPC will nevertheless not hesitate to exercise its powers when it finds indications of antitrust infringements.
  • Pointing to the importance of the availability of essential public health products (such as masks, sanitisers, etc.) at competitive prices, the CPC will closely monitor the respective markets and intervene in any attempt to cartelise the market or to abuse a dominant position with the aim of profiting from the current situation.
  • To avoid supply issues and guarantee the availability of essential commodities and pharmaceuticals, the CPC will take a more lenient approach to temporary and proportionate coordinated measures taken by market participants pursuing (only) these goals and which are necessary to achieve them.
  • To prevent the resale of manufacturers' products at excessive prices, the CPC notes that manufacturers can set maximum resale prices for their goods, as long as these do not amount to fixed retail prices and all the other legal requirements are met.
  • The CPC urges suppliers, traders and distributors from every sector to adopt responsible and legitimate business practices at every level of the supply chain, including in e-commerce.

Enforcement: None

CRO

Advisory: Reference to the ECN's joint statement.

  • Enforcement: None

CZE

Advisory:

  • The Czech Competition Authority (CCA) continues to watch the market, focussing on cartel agreements (particularly price fixing and market sharing agreements, agreements limiting production, and bid rigging) and abuses of dominance (particularly by excessive pricing and squeezing out competitors), both related to goods and services crucial during the state of emergency (food, energy, medicine, etc.).
  • A certain level of cooperation might be desirable during the state of emergency, if (i) it is limited to what is necessary in order to secure critical goods and services during the pandemic, and if (ii) securing these goods and services is endangered by the current situation.
  • The CCA is available for consultation.
  • Enforcement: None

HUN

Advisory: Reference to the ECN's joint statement.

Enforcement: None

POL

Enforcement:

  • Special team appointed that will monitor shops selling food and hygiene articles for (i) excessive pricing, and (ii) misleading statements saying that certain products provide protection against the coronavirus.
  • By cooperating with a popular online auction platform, the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (CCP) eliminated over 50,000 offers of products that were supposedly intended to help protect against COVID-19.

ROM

Advisory

  • In fighting excessive prices, the Romanian Competition Council (RCC) recommends inter alia:
  • For suppliers to set maximum resale prices;
  • For platform owners to monitor and (if required) either limit prices or suspend the sale of essential product if there are suspicions of abuse.
  • The RCC is particularly monitoring companies which have recently switched to make face masks or disinfectants to help fight coronavirus, where prices have more than doubled.
  • The president of the RCC announced that if prices do not drop, the authority will consider introducing measures such as price capping or the requisition of goods and services.
  • In terms of cooperation between businesses during the crisis, the RCC refers to the ECN's joint statement, but also stresses that the current crisis should not be used to increase prices without an objective justification, to exchange sensitive information (pricing, trade policy), to exclude competitors from the market or to abuse a dominant position.
  • It invites companies that have doubts about the compatibility of their initiatives with antitrust rules to reach out to the authority via email. It also encourages consumers that suspect anticompetitive behaviour to contact the authority via its whistleblower tool.
  • To assist in the fight against the pandemic, the RCC has signalled that it will be flexible in assessing the sharing of sensitive information between pharmaceutical companies (if done to avoid shortages of medication).

Enforcement: The RCC has launched investigations into manufacturers of medical and sanitation equipment over possible price fixing.

SVK

Advisory: Reference to the ECN's joint statement.

Enforcement: None

SLO

Advisory: Reference to the ECN's joint statement.

Enforcement: None

TUR

Advisory:

  • Turkey's Competition Authority (CA) announced that it may impose fines on companies that contribute to price hikes in the food sector (especially fresh foods and vegetables) during the COVID-19 crisis.
  • The CA stated that it is closely monitoring the behaviour of the players in the food industry and that it will impose heavy penalties on all companies that are found to engage in anticompetitive practices in the food sector.

Enforcement: None

UKR

Advisory: The authority urged restraint in increasing prices for medicine and hygiene products. It will also closely monitor the situation to ensure that no antitrust abuses take place.

Enforcement: Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) is being probed over price hikes for their tickets prior to the planned suspension of flights due to the COVID-19 crisis. This comes after ticket prices from London to Kiev more than doubled.

 

 

This article is part of our coronavirus-focused legal updates – visit our coronavirus info corner to get more info!

 

Christoph
Haid

Partner

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