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New Proceedings against Undertakings Operating on the Baby Care Products Market

kzkThe Commission for Protection of Competition has instituted four new in-depth antitrust investigation proceedings against ten undertakings operating on the baby care products market, based on reasonable doubt that the parties have concluded restrictive agreements in order to fix prices of baby care products in further sale (such as pacifiers and dummies, soothers and teethers, baby bottles, milk pumps, baby cosmetics, textile, etc.).

The ex officio proceedings instituted to establish the infringement of competition concern the following companies: Yuglob doo Beograd, Keprom doo Beograd, Aksa doo Beograd, „K-Pharma“ HI Pharmacy from Beograde and HI Pharmacy Kraljevo, as well as pharmaceutical wholesalers, companies Farmalogist doo Beograd, Vega doo Valjevo, Lekovit doo Šabac, Medicom doo Šabac and NS Pharm doo Novi Sad.

Note that already in April 2018, the Commission for Protection of Competition has instituted two in-depth investigation proceedings in order to establish potential infringements of competition on the baby care products market.

The Commission for Protection of Competition believes that the baby care products market is of utmost importance for consumers, as well as for the society as a whole, and uses this opportunity to remind the public that in addition to the mentioned investigation proceedings, the Commission is conducting a sector inquiry into the entire baby equipment market, the results of which will be presented to the general public.

All persons in possession of data, documents or other relevant information which could contribute to the accurate fact-finding in the proceedings are called upon to submit said to the Commission for Protection of Competition to the address 25/IV Savska St., Belgrade.

Commission Conducted Dawn Raids on Keprom and Yuglob

kzk-ekofOn April 24, 2018, the Commission for Protection of Competition conducted dawn raids on business premises of companies “Keprom d.o.o.” and “Yuglob d.o.o.” from Belgrade. Dawn raids, as a special measure of inquiry, are conducted at three locations in Belgrade, where the Commission collected evidence of the importance for further conduct.

The Commission reasonably assumed that said companies, as big importers and distributors of baby and infant products, have concluded restrictive agreements by way of which have set the resale price of goods, and in that manner have infringed the competition rules stipulated in Article 10 of the Law on Protection of Competition.

Noting the exceptional significance of this market for consumers, but also for the society as a whole, the Commission will continue to investigate anti-competitive behaviors and competition compliance of undertakings in the coming period as well, particularly in terms of price policy.

In addition to the competition infringement proceeding, the Commission also instituted a comprehensive sector inquiry into the baby and infant product market.

Continued Proceeding upon Notification of Concentration of Company Compagnie des Levures Lesaffre S.A. and Alltech RS Fermentaciona Industrija LLC

kzk-ekofBy means of conclusion enacted by the Commission President of October 10, 2017, proceeding is continued ex officio, instituted upon notification of concentration of company Compagnie des Levures Lesaffre S.A., France, created by acquisition of individual control over company Alltech RS Fermentaciona Industrija LLC Senta.

During the investigation procedure, the Commission will investigate as to whether concentration concerned fulfils the conditions of permissibility from Article 19 of the Law on Protection of Competition, or respectively on the possibility of significant restriction, distortion or prevention of competition on the market of the Republic of Serbia or its part by implementing the related concentration, and especially if such restriction, distortion or prevention would be the result of creating or strengthening of a dominant position.

The Commission will conduct all necessary activities, establish all facts and derive evidence necessary to define the relevant market(s), structure of the relevant market(s), degree of concentration on the relevant market(s), identification of actual and potential competitors, market position of participants in concentration, legal and other barriers to enter on the relevant markets, interests of consumers, etc.

The Commission calls upon all persons in possession of data, documentation or other information that might contribute to the accurate fact-finding in this proceeding to submit the said in the shortest possible time to the Commission to the address: 25/IV Savska St., Belgrade.

Measures for Protection of Competition Imposed on Companies Bora Kečić – Special Transports LLC and Large Transport LLC

Commission for Protection of Competition enacted a decision finding that companies „Bora Kečić – Special transports LLC Belgrade” and „Large transport LLC Belgrade” have agreed on individual participation in the public procurement procedure tendered by the PE “Electro network of Serbia”. By concluding the restrictive agreement they have significantly restricted and distorted competition, and in that sense, the Commission enacted a pecuniary measure to the above-mentioned companies in the amount of RSD 9,792,225.00 and RSD 1,039,300.00 to „Bora Kečić – Special transports LLC Belgrade” and „Large transport LLC Belgrade”, respectively. The said companies are obliged to effect the payment of the aforementioned amounts into the budget of the Republic of Serbia within the deadline of three months.

In the proceeding conducted ex officio, the Commission determined that these companies have agreed on tender pricing, in addition to behavior taken during the conduct of public procurement in relation to offers provided by other bidders. In that sense, the Commission determined the occurrence of competition infringement pursuant to Article 10(2/1) of the Law on Protection of Competition. The objective of “rigged bid” was to eliminate the risk of potentially more favorable bid, to secure that companies „Bora Kečić“ and „Large Transport” in the respective public procurement be elected as the most advantageous bidders, and to acquire a gain higher than the one achieved under the conditions of a free and fair competition

Commission Finds Abuse of Dominance by EPS Distribution

EPS DISTRIBUCIJAOn 23 December the Council of the Commission for Protection of Competition adopted a decision finding that the national electricity distribution system operator EPS Distribution LLC Belgrade abused its dominant position as the sole operator on the market for electricity distribution in Serbia. A pecuniary measure for protection of competition in the amount of approximately RSD 330 million (equal to approximately EUR 2.67 million) was imposed on this undertaking, to be paid into the budget of the Republic of Serbia. This is in addition to behavioral measures aimed at providing equal business conditions on the relevant market.

During the course of the proceedings, the Commission determined that the aforesaid undertaking abused its dominant position by placing certain commercial electricity suppliers and, in particular, its sister company EPS Supply, in a more favorable position vis-à-vis their competitors. Such behaviour was, among other things, a consequence of the non-transparent business policy of EPS Distribution.

While contracting access to the electricity distribution system, EPS Distribution imposed a commitment to deposit security instruments on all commercial suppliers except its sister-company, EPS Supply. At the same time, EPS Distribution discriminated between different suppliers in terms of the amount of the deposited security instruments, by setting the amount for some suppliers based on the monthly value of services provided, while for others the amount was based on a trimonthly value. In addition, almost all commercial suppliers of electricity were obliged to deposit their security instruments in just one commercial bank, chosen by EPS Distribution. During a brief period, EPS Supply also enjoyed a much longer grace period for settling its liabilities towards EPS Distribution, compared to all other commercial suppliers.

The abovementioned conduct resulted in increased costs for competing commercial electricity suppliers.

In setting the level of the pecuniary measure for protection of competition, the Commission took into account the cooperation and overall conduct of EPS Distribution during the proceedings. This included, in particular, the amendment of the disputed acts and a demonstration of intent to fully eliminate the harmful effects of the prohibited market behavior.

Signed Agreement on Cooperation in the Fight against Corruption and Protection of Competition

The Anti-Corruption Agency, Commission for Protection of Competition and Republic Commission for Protection of Rights in Public Procurement Procedures have signed the Agreement on cooperation. The Agreement is signed by Tatjana Babić, the Agency Director, Miloje Obradović, PhD, the Commission President, and Hana Hukić, the Republic Commission President.

The Agreement is signed on the sidelines of a workshop on public procurements in the light of issues regarding the fight against corruption and protection of competition, held from 8-9, November in Aranđelovac, organized by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe.

This represents the expression of readiness for cooperation aimed at the protection of public interest, reduction of corruption-related risks and strengthening of institutional integrities.
The workshop analyzed issues related to the protection of rights in public procurement procedures, determination of conflict of interests with reference to the conflict of interests in public procurements, public procurements and competition policy, and setting of a joint cooperation areas in the context of the Public Procurement Law, Law on the Anti-Corruption Agency and Law on Protection of Competition. (Photo:OSCE/Milan Obradović)

CONCLUSION With Order to Submit Information, Statements and Data – SPORTIKO d.o.o. Aranđelovac
The Commission Initiated Competition Infringement Procedure Against “INTER TURS PLUS” Company

kzk-ekofThe Commission for Protection of Competition, based on the Commission President’s Resolution, dated August 29, 2016, initiated competition infringement procedure ex officio against company “INTER TURS PLUS” from Aranđelovac.

Based on data, information and documents collected, the Commission reasonably assumed a violation of competition having, or likely to have as their object or effect, significant restriction, distortion or prevention of competition.

During the conduct of procedure, the Commission will investigate whether the named company, as a controller of a single bus station in Topola, by increasing bus station platform cost – bus dispatch services, committed the abuse of a dominant position. Bus platform selling price in the amount that is unfairly high, which leads to the exploitation of service users, can constitute an act of the abuse of a dominant position stipulated under Article 16 of the Law on Protection of Competition.

Proceedings Initiated Against 16 Wholesale and Retail of Sportswear, Footwear and Equipment Undertakings

kzk-ekofThe Commission for Protection of Competition initiated proceedings against 16 wholesale and retail of sportswear, footwear, equipment and accessories undertakings.

The proceedings were initiated on the grounds of reasonable presumption of existence of competition infringement pursuant to Article 10 of the Law on Protection of Competition, an activity restricting the competition on retail and wholesale markets of sportswear, footwear, equipment and accessories market in the Republic of Serbia. The undertakings against whom the proceedings were initiated are as follows: „N SPORT“, „PREDUZEĆE ĐAK“, „OFFICE-SHOES“, „PLANETA SPORT“, „CARVEL“, „SPORTMARKET“, „ZVEZDA FOREVER“, „TOTAL SPORT“, „SPORTIKO“, „UNIVERS-CO“, „EUROSTAR“, „TRIM DOO VRBAS“, „K..G…FASSHION“, „KOPELLI“ and „STR FOKUS“ and „KOMISION SPORT ONE“.

On August 18, 2016, the Commission performed a down raid at the business premises of the „N Sport“ company and acquired information, data and contracts which this company has entered into with its customers. The down raid was conducted due to the existence of a reasonable doubt of danger of disposal or altering evidence held by the party in the proceedings.

According to the collected information and documents, the „N Sport“ company, as the seller, has entered into contracts on business cooperation with other undertakings against whom the Commission has initiated proceedings, which contained an obligation for the customers to comply with the minimum retail price set by the „N Sport“ in the resale of their products. This obligation particularly pertained to the brands PUMA, RUSSELL ATHLETIC, SERGIO TACCHINI and others. Also, the contracts contained a prohibition of special sales actions and other forms of favorable sales without prior approval of the seller, i.e. the „N Sport“.

The Commission reasonably assumed that certain provisions of the concluded contracts represent a mutually agreed obligation, by way of which prices and terms of trade are set in an illegal manner, which constitutes a restrictive agreement and infringement of competition pursuant to Article 10 of the Law on Protection of Competition. Restrictive agreements are agreements between undertakings, the object or effect of which is to considerably restrict, distort or prevent competition on the territory of the Republic of Serbia, and in particular those agreements which directly or indirectly set purchase or sale prices or other terms of trade in the resale of products.

The Commission invites all the parties who may possess data, documents or any other relevant information which may contribute to determining the facts in these proceedings, to submit them at the address of the Commission for Protection of Competition, Savska 25/IV, Belgrade.

The Commission Determined Conditional Approval of Concentration of Sunoko d.o.o Novi Sad Company over Star Šećer d.o.o. Senta Company and TE-TO Senta a.d. Sugar Factory

During the session held on August 11, 2016, the Commission for Protection of Competition’s Council enacted decision on conditional approval of implementation of concentration created by the change of control of the Sunoko d.o.o Novi Sad company over Star Šećer d.o.o. Senta company, and consequently over TE-TO Senta A.D. sugar factory.

Based on the state of the matter determined during investigation procedure, the Commission concluded that by implementing of concentration, the Sunoko’ dominant position shall be strengthened, foremost in the sugar production and sugar distribution markets in the Republic of Serbia. For those reasons, implementation of the mentioned concentration can be approved only if accompanied by certain conditions prescribed by the decision. The Commission for Protection of Competition believes that by determining behavioral measures referring to Sunoko d.o.o Novi Sad, secures a prevention of potential adverse effects of the concentration in question.

The decision imposed conditions in a form of behavioral measures and mandatory regular reporting towards the Commission with the goal of securing market structure and retaining all production capacities, including the TE TO Senta sugar refinery on the market, transparent monitoring of the level, alterations in sugar prices on the market, improvement of sugar sale policy’s transparency and consumer business relations, as well as full disclosure of information to the Commission on the level and type of investments to be implemented in the TE TO Senta with the aim of increased production effectiveness, in the following manner:

1. Reporting on the processed sugar beets and manufactured sugar, separately for each of the sugar refineries owned by Sunoko.

2. In the case of liquidation, or Sunoko’ decision resulting in permanent closing of some of sugar refineries under their management, Sunoko is obliged to previously publically announce the sale of sugar refinery’s equity or property in no less than three daily newspapers regularly distributed in the whole territory of the Republic of Serbia, and in one foreign newspapers specialized in economy and finances and published in the territory of the EU, or on an Internet portal usually utilized for distribution of business related news.

3. Obligation of reporting on prices, on consequential changes in sugar prices individually for the Serbian market, EU, CEFTA and eventually the third market, on FCO sugar refineries parity, VAT free, with the submission of a rationale on samples and intensity of consequential changes.

4. Obligation to, no later than in six months, submit to the Commission a document with which it defines its domestic costumer sugar sale policy.

5. Reporting on possible alterations of existing contracts between TE-TO Senta A.D. sugar factory and costumers, and a rationale of those.

6. Commitment of submitting annual reports on measures and activities taken with the goal of maintaining business operations of the TE-TO Senta A.D. sugar factory, which may include, but are not limited to the following: repayment or debts, assumption of other financial expenditures, transfer of technical and technological know-how and experiences, transfer of managerial know-how and experiences, measures that influence increase of production effectiveness and reduction of sugar cost prices, as well as other, direct or indirect, financial, technical and technological, managerial, and other measures.

Ordered measures (except under Item 5), shall be implemented until the abolition of customs duties and levies on sugar imports in the Republic of Serbia, and no longer than for period of subsequent five years from the Commission decision’s legal validity date. Measure under Item 5 shall be implemented ending 2017.

Throughout the investigation procedure, the Commission obtained necessary data, information, as well as opinions on the effects of concentration from competitors as the concentration participants, their biggest suppliers and customers, in addition to the state authorities and organizations in charge of data relevant to this proceeding.

During the determination of conditions for approval of concentration, the Commission also kept in mind opinions and views on the effects of concentration that other undertakings have presented in the course of the proceeding, particularly industrial costumers.

The Commission also had in mind financial position of the TE-TO Senta A.D. factory. Regulated conditions, deadlines and manners for monitoring of their execution should eliminate Commission’s concerns related to securing efficient protection of competition, via preserving production capacities, implementation of planned investments that can achieve increased production efficiency, and thus, lower sugar cost prices, alongside transparent sale policy (discount policy) and price policy (intensity and causes of price alternations).