What are some recent notable cartel cases (limited to one or two key examples, with a very short summary of the facts, decision and sanctions/level of fine)?
According to 2017 annual activity report of the Authority, there have been two leniency applications in 2017. Both applicants were granted immunity in investigations where other undertakings were fined. First one concerns the mechanical engineering sector (17-41/640-279, 14.12.2017) in a region. The allegation was that the mechanical engineers in Burdur compiled revenue in a pool and shared their revenue. One of the undertakings became aware of the leniency regime during the on-site inspection and applied and consequently was granted immunity from the administrative monetary fine.
The second one, concerns 13 financial institutions active in the corporate and commercial banking markets in Turkey (17-39/636-276, 28.11.2017). The allegation concerned the exchange of competitively sensitive information on loan conditions regarding current loan agreements and other financial transactions. The Board resolved that BTMU would not face an administrative fine pursuant to its leniency application, granting full immunity to BTMU while also relieving the other investigated undertakings from administrative fines. The Board imposed an administrative monetary fine on ING and RBS in the amount of TL 21,100,000 (around EUR 3.5 million at the time of writing) and TL 66,400 (around EUR 11,000 at the time of writing), respectively, over their annual turnover in the financial year of 2016.
In December 2017, the Federal Court dismissed the ACCC’s civil case against PZ Cussons Australia alleging Cussons had arrived at an understanding with two other laundry detergent manufacturers (Colgate-Palmolive and Unilever, the latter an immunity applicant) to cease supplying standard concentrate laundry detergents in early 2009, and thereafter only supply ultra concentrates. Supermarket retailer Woolworths and a former Colgate executive were also alleged to have been knowingly concerned in the conduct. In 2016, Colgate and later Woolworths admitted to the conduct, with the Court imposing penalties of $18m and $9m respectively.
The ACCC’s case against Cussons was circumstantial. The ACCC relied on a pattern of behaviour (meetings) and parallel conduct to draw inferences of an understanding. However, the Court found that most meetings did not involve direct communications between suppliers, and further, the communications tended to evidence no agreement was reached. The Court also found the communications were entirely explicable on economic grounds and would have likely occurred in the absence of any CAU. The ACCC has appealed. At the timing of writing, judgment is reserved.
COFECE has called for public comment on proposed regulation for the assertion of privilege in the context of proceedings before it. The proposed rules set forth a process where privilege needs to be asserted and established by the parties (who would bear the burden of proof) whereas a panel within COFECE would rule on the matter. As this would, in the view of several practitioners, restrict the right to legal defence set forth in the Constitution, more developments are expected in connection with this topic.
In 2016, COFECE launched an investigation into the production, commercialization and distribution of drugs in the country. The investigation has already concluded and the findings of the IA could be released as early as April 2019. Given that back in 2017 COFECE released a study where it concluded that there was a lack of competition with respect to expired-patent branded drugs, the findings of the investigation could be of great relevance for the pharma industry.
In 2016, COFECE launched a probe into the trading with Mexican sovereign debt securities market. While the investigation period is still in its final term, this investigation follows a 2017 decision of COFECE imposing significant fines on pension fund managers for collusion and a recent 2019 declaring that a credit bureau had abused its dominant position in refusing to deal with a competing credit information institution. These investigations show that financial services is among the industries in which COFECE will focus in the coming years.
The so-called ‘cement cartel’ was condemned by CADE on May 2014 and allegedly consisted in price fixing, limitation of supply and allocation of markets and clients. CADE imposed the biggest fine in its history (which totalled around BRL 3.1 billion) and harsh non-pecuniary sanctions, such as the divestment of industrial plants and the prohibition to make mergers and acquisitions in the cement and concrete sector until 2019. The decision is being judicially challenged.
Other notable investigations are those regarding cartels in the foreign (offshore) exchange rate market and the Brazilian (onshore) exchange market, allegedly involving Brazilian and foreign currencies, as well as attempts to manipulate benchmark rates in the exchange market. CADE’s final decision on such cases is still pending, therefore there are still no sanctions. Investigations involve many of the largest international and Brazilian banks.
On 14 December 2017, the Market Court handed down its judgement in the Bus Cartel case, where the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority ("FCCA") had proposed fines up to EUR 38 million in total for the Finnish Bus Association, Matkahuolto and the bus transportation companies involved for engaging in prohibited cooperation between competitors. The Market court agreed with the FCCA on some findings but disagreed on some, most notably on the FCCA's finding that the companies had engaged in restriction of competition in the context of discussions relating to the representation of interests conducted by the Bus Association, and ultimately imposed fines of only EUR 100 000 on each undertaking, or EUR 1.1 million in total. The FCCA has appealed the decision to the Supreme Administrative Court, where the case is pending.
On 4 December 2018, the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority ("FCCA") proposed that the Finnish Market Court impose a fine of EUR 4.3 million on two companies manufacturing EPS insulation, ThermiSol Oy and UK-Muovi Oy, for their participation in a cartel on the market for EPS insulation in Finland. A third company, Styroplast, was granted immunity from a fine as it was the first to reveal the existence of the cartel and provided additional information to the FCCA. According to the FCCA, the three largest manufacturers of EPS insulation in Finland had operated an illegal nationwide price cartel during the years 2012–2014. The manufacturers allegedly agreed on, inter alia, amounts and timing of price increases, thus restricting competition on the market. The case is pending before the Market Court.
The well-known international investigation into auto-parts concluded in Canada in October 2018, with the Bureau having obtained 13 guilty pleas and more than CDN$86 million in fines. The auto-parts class actions continue.
The PPSC recently had two important prosecution setbacks in domestic matters, namely the jury acquittal in the Durward bid-rigging case in relation to IT services to federal agencies, and the stay of proceedings in the chocolate price-fixing case. The PPSC however secured a number of guilty pleas in domestic cartel and bid-rigging cases in relation to the retail gas, sewer and water services, and ventilation industries.
In March 2018, the duties of the three former AMEA (SAIC, NDRC and the Ministry of Commerce) were integrated into the newly established SAMR. In August 2018, SAMR established a new anti-monopoly bureau.
At the end of December 2018, SAMR authorized its provincial branches to take charge of AML enforcement within their respective administrative region.
The generic drugs cartel investigation is worth noting. This investigation involves allegations of price fixing and customer allocation in the generic pharmaceutical industry. In December 2016, DOJ charged two former executives of Heritage Pharmaceuticals, Inc. for their role in fixing the prices of two generic drugs. The two executives pled guilty and are awaiting sentencing. To date, DOJ has not announced any further charges. Beginning in 2016, several putative class actions were filed on behalf of direct purchasers, end-payors, and indirect resellers. The class actions were consolidated into a multi-district litigation in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. In August 2017, the class plaintiffs filed complaints alleging various generic pharmaceutical manufactures participated in individual conspiracies to fix prices for 18 drugs. Later in 2018, class plaintiffs filed additional complaints asserting that numerous defendants engaged in a larger conspiracy to fix prices and allocate markets across the industry. To date, over 30 defendants are involved in the multi-district litigation. State attorneys general for 47 states, DC and Puerto Rico also filed a civil suit alleging 18 companies and 2 individuals participated in a conspiracy to fix prices and divide markets for 15 generic pharmaceutical drugs. The attorneys general suit was consolidated into the multidistrict litigation. In re Generic Pharmaceuticals Pricing Antitrust Litig., No. 2:16-md-2724 (E.D. Pa.).
From the practitioner’s point of view, in the past few years, it appears that the JFTC is focusing more on domestic cartel and bid rigging cases involving large public projects such as the road pavement case concerning recovery work from the earthquake in 2011, and the maglev (new high speed railway) construction case, rather than international cartel cases.
Some important reforms are expected relating to cartel regulations. New law bills concerning the reform were approved by the Japanese Cabinet and were sent to the parliament for further discussions and approval. An outline of the anticipated reforms is as follows:
(i) Reform in calculation of cartel surcharges
As discussed in 6.2 above, under the current Antimonopoly Act, the cartel duration period used for the calculation of surcharges is limited to a maximum of 3 years, however, under the new laws, the period will be extended to 10 years. Also, the favourable surcharge rates for retail business and wholesale business operators will be abolished and the normal rate of 10% will apply. Similarly, the leniency measures which applied to a party who had withdrawn from cartel activities will be abolished.
(ii) Reform in leniency program
As discussed in 3.1 above, under the current Antimonopoly Act, the number of leniency applicants eligible to receive full immunity or reduction in surcharges is limited to 5, however, the new law will abolish this limitation in the number of leniency applicants.
Under the new leniency program, the first leniency applicant will receive full immunity from surcharges, which is the same as under the current program. However, for the applicants after the first applicant, in addition to the reduction rates decided based on the timing of the leniency application, the applicants will be eligible to receive a reduction of up to 40% depending on the level of cooperation they provide to the JFTC’s investigation. This new system is intended to increase the undertakings’ incentive to cooperate with the JFTC’s investigation.
The chart below summarizes the reduction rates granted to the leniency applicants under the new system:
Start of the JFTC’s Investigation
Additional Reduction based on Level of Cooperation
Up to 40%
6th and after
Up to 3 Parties
Up to 20%
4th and after
(iii) Attorney-Client Privilege
The reform plans to introduce limited attorney-client privilege concerning confidential communications between an undertaking and its legal counsel concerning unreasonable restraint of trade, including cartel activities. However, the privilege is limited to cases concerning unreasonable restraint of trade and attorney-client privilege will not be recognized in other types of Antimonopoly Act violations. Further, the privilege is only applicable to the JFTC’s administrative investigations, and will not apply to criminal investigations. Although this reform plan is a positive step forward since attorney-client privilege is currently not recognized in Japan, it should be noted that the scope of protection is still quite limited compared to other jurisdictions such as the US and the EU.
The most recent cartel case reported by the MyCC in Malaysia is the case against 7 tuition and day care cantres for allegedly fixing and standardising the fees charged for tuition and day care centres in the Subang Jaya area in the State of Selangor. A total financial penalty of 33,068.85 ringgit was proposed to be imposed on the said tuition and day care centres. The said tuition and day care centres are also required to repudiate the price fixing agreement with immediate effect and to complete the MyCC’s e-learning course on competition compliance for small and medium enterprise.
Another recent notable case would the aforementioned case against PIAM (General Insurance Association of Malaysia) and its 22 members for cartelish behaviour in fixing the parts trade discount at 25% for six vehicle makes namely Proton, Perodua, Nissan, Toyota, Honda and Naza and 15% for the Proton Saga BLM model, as well as the labour hourly rate of RM30.00 per hour for PIAM Approved Repairers Scheme (‘PARS’) workshops. The fine was 213.45 million ringgit and it is the highest fine imposed by the MyCC to-date.
In January 2018, the Federal Administrative Court reversed the sanctions against Pfizer, Eli Lily and Bayer imposed by the Commission. Pfizer, Eli Lilly and Bayer sell their medications for erectile dysfunction in Switzerland through pharmacies and self-dispensing physicians who are authorised to sell medications. All three pharmaceutical companies had published retail price recommendations (RPR) for these medications, which were explicitly designated as ‘non-binding’. In November 2009, the Commission ruled that publishing and following the RPR under the specific circumstances of the case would result in an unlawful and sanctionable vertical price-fixing. Pfizer, Bayer and Eli Lilly were prohibited from further publishing the RPR. In addition, the three pharmaceutical companies were fined a total of 5.7 million Swiss francs. With its three decisions of 19 December 2017, the Federal Administrative Court set aside the sanctions against Pfizer, Eli Lily and Bayer imposed by the Commission. It held that unilaterally announced, recommended prices are only problematic from a competition law point of view if they lose their character as a recommendation and are monitored and enforced by exerting pressure or granting incentives. The Federal Administrative Court’s decisions have not entered into legal force yet.
A recent notable cartel case in Israel is the "Bread Cartel". According to an agreement between three competing bakeries, it has been agreed to avoid supplying products to each other's clients and to rise prices on agreed products. Due to the above actions, the bakeries CEO's were accused of being parties of a binding arrangement in aggravating circumstances, in light of the share and status of bakeries in the production of bread products under the Israeli supervision; the multiplicity of victims of the offense and the potential damage resulting from the arrangement; the vitality of the products related to the arrangement; the multiplicity of parties to the arrangement; the sophistication of the arrangement and the use of a number of cartelistic techniques that violate the core prohibitions specified in the Competition Law; and the cessation of the arrangement's activity only when the defendants noticed the initiation of a criminal investigation. The District court has sentenced two of the defendants for 8-10 months of active imprisonment and imposed personal financial sanctions of NIS 150,000-350,000 each. The bakeries were also required to pay a fine of over NIS 1.8 Million in total. The Court of Appeals has later concluded that the punishment given by the District Court was too strict and therefore reduced the defendants' punishments to three months imprisonment and three months of community service.
Firstly, the decision of the CNMC in case S/DC/0578/16  Paquetería y Mensajería Empresarial (corporate courier and parcel delivery services) is worth mentioning. The reason is the approach followed by the authority in order to shoehorn a complex network of bilateral agreements into the concept of a cartel following a leniency application. The CNMC noted that the corporate courier and parcel delivery service was characterised by frequent commercial relations between providers because individually they lack the resources to render the entire range of services that they offer. Then, it went on to find that some operators availed of such relations to reach verbal reciprocal non-aggression agreements not to approach any customers of the counterparty, whether covered by the subcontracting agreement with the latter or not. In the CNMC’s view, such absolute protection of customers could not be seen as an ancillary restraint to the lawful main commercial relationship between providers, but an unjustified customer allocation agreement alien to such commercial relationship. As a result, nine separate cartel infringements were declared and an overall sanction of over EUR 70 million was imposed on ten undertakings, full immunity being granted to the leniency applicant, that had only participated in one of the agreements.
Secondly, the decision of the CNMC in case S/DC/0562/15  Cables BT/MT (medium-voltage and low-voltage cables) also stands out for the breadth of its scope. As a result of the leniency application filed by a manufacturer, the CNMC declared three sets of cartel infringements: (i) a price-fixing and market-allocation cartel among seven manufacturers on the wholesale level, where distributors source cables at the prices set in manufacturers’ lists, with the necessary cooperation of the sectoral association; (ii) three cartels for the allocation of projects in relation to key accounts, which constitute direct clients for which both manufacturers and distributors are supposed to compete, each of the three cartels entered into with one distributor and several manufacturers which had also participated in the manufacturers’ cartel; and (iii) a cartel between two distributors consisting of one of them systematically submitting covering bids for the other one to be awarded the projects at stake. Overall, sanctions of over EUR 43 million were imposed on the 11 undertakings involved.
Thirdly, the CNMC has been very active in the prosecution of bid-rigging infringements involving joint bidding unions (Uniones Temporales de Empresas). The CNMC has applied a high standard regarding the necessity of the participation in a consortium and the ability of undertakings to submit individual bids or to participate in other consortia (see decision of the Board in case S/0519/14  Infraestructuras Ferroviarias –rail infrastructure). In case S/0598/16  Electrificación y Electromecánicas Ferroviarias - rail electrification–, also concerning bid-rigging and joint bidding unions, the CNMC imposed sanctions totalling over EUR 118 million and declared that those infringing entities not covered by leniency applications should be ineligible to submit a tender for public contracts.
In terms of recent developments, one case stands out as it is a cartel sanctioned by the CC based on leniency applications by one of the participants thereto. Decision no. 77/2017 (published in 2018) concerns the sanctioning of a bid-rigging and market-sharing cartel by undertakings delivering remote meter reading systems and electronic meters to Electrica S.A., one of the largest Romanian state-held electricity suppliers. The investigation uncovered a cartel between suppliers of software and electricity meters, concerning the establishment of a procurement procedure participation pattern. Draft tender documentations were circulated by Electrica S.A. with the cartel members ahead of the dates when it held its procurement procedures. As a novelty, the role of a facilitator of Electrica S.A. was assessed, and a full immunity leniency programme was implemented in respect of one of the participants.
In another recent case, decided in December 2018, the CC fined the National Union of Insurance Companies in Romania ('UNSAR') and 9 insurance companies active on the Romanian market for a hub-and-spoke cartel aimed at increasing prices for insurance policies in for damages produced by motor vehicles. The decision is not yet published, but the CC's press release indicates that between 2013-2016, the insurance companies did not act independently in determining the prices for such insurance policies, but coordinated their price increases based on discussions held under the UNSAR umbrella, the association acting as a facilitator to collusion. One of the participating insurance companies participated in the leniency program, admitted to participating in the cartel and was granted a reduction of the fine, due to a "substantial supplementary contribution" brought by the elements of proof that it put forth during the investigation.
In February 2019, the Chairman of the CMA, Lord Tyrie, set out in a letter to the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy the need to raise the compensation cap for cartel whistle-blowers. Lord Tyrie noted that the maximum compensation available should be commensurate with the financial impact, the loss of career prospects and the distress that whistle-blowers may encounter.
In December 2018, the EU Directive 2019/1 (the ECN+ Directive) was adopted in order to empower NCAs to be more effective enforcers of the EU competition rules. The ECN+ Directive was published in the EU’s Official Journal on 14 January 2019 and Member States have two years in which to implement it. Essentially, the measures are aimed at ensuring that NCAs have investigative and enforcement powers that mirror those in Regulation 1/2003. This includes protection against disclosure at national level for leniency applicants. In addition, further harmonisation rules require that all Member States implement a marker system for immunity applications and establish a ‘summary application’ system for parties who have already applied for leniency with the Commission.
The new Antitrust Law has granted greater tools to the regulator, therefore it is quite likely that cartel enforcement will be a top priority for the Antitrust Commission in the years to come. It remains to be seen how the leniency system will be effectively implemented and what its results will be, but the legislative push towards its approval shows that cartel prosecution is once again a priority in Argentina. Especially, with regards to the “notebook case”, a recent corruption scandal that was unveiled in 2018 entailing an organized corruption scheme, which included the delivery of bribes to several people and locations, including politicians and many businessmen who were benefited with large public contracts during the term of 2005 – 2015. This proceeding is being carried out through a criminal investigation, but the Antitrust Commission is likely to initiate an investigation on bid rigging allegations ex officio, either if such investigation is ordered by the criminal court handling the case or triggered by a leniency application.
Also, the Antitrust Commission has recently published a draft version of the Guidelines for Analysis of Cases of Abuse of Dominance for public consultation and is currently working on a draft version for Guidelines for the Leniency Programme. These are expected to be released during the course of 2019.
The NCA has not issued any decisions under section 10 since 2017. That year two decisions where issued, as well as a Supreme Court judgement concerning bid rigging. The judgement by the Supreme Court concerned a collaboration in tender proceedings for taxi services. The collaboration was not a typical cartel, as the undertakings did not seek to hide their collaboration, and the undertaking involved were small market players and the collaboration would increase the quality of the service. The Supreme Court still upheld the NCA decision stating the joint offer restricted competition by object, as the undertakings could have issued separate tender bids. The judgment represent a strict and non-effects based approach.
On 22 June 2015, the BCA imposed a total fine of €174 million on 18 supermarkets and suppliers of drugstore, hygiene and perfumery products, notwithstanding the fine reductions. The BCA had found that the retailers had indirectly coordinated price increases by exchanging information with other retailers through suppliers.
On 2 May 2017, the BCA imposed a total fine of €1.779.000 on ABB, AEG, Siemens, Schneider and Sécheron for bid-rigging. The undertakings had engaged in a cartel in the context of public tenders that were organised by the Belgian railway network, Infrabel. According to the BCA, the undertakings had decided amongst themselves which company should win the bids.
The recent notable developments in competition law enforcement relate to the adoption of the settlement procedure in 2016. Following this, the HCC has already issued two settlement decisions: the first one pertained to a collusion between cosmetic retailers and the second one was a landmark decision on the bid-rigging cartel in tenders for public works of infrastructure. The latter, published in March 2017, concerned collusive schemes (spanning from 1981 to 2012) regarding tenders for public works of infrastructure fifteen undertakings active in the construction sector in Greece and led to the imposition of fines totaling approximately € 81 million. One undertaking also received full immunity from fines. This was the first successful application of the revised leniency programme in Greece.
Finally, a recent development relating to the organisational structure of the HCC is the appointment in December 2018 of a new President with a five years term.
In the 2018 LPG Cylinders Appeal, the Supreme Court allowed an appeal from a COMPAT order upholding a February 2012 finding by the CCI that 45 suppliers of LPG cylinders had engaged in bid-rigging with respect to a tender floated by Indian Oil Corporation Limited. The Supreme Court held that the CCI, and the COMPAT had wrongly inferred collusive bidding from the fact of parallel pricing and other supporting factors (including a contemporaneous trade association meeting and general market conditions). It found that the buyer was part of an oligopsony, where a few powerful buyers controlled the market and the sellers were likely to quote the same level of prices. The Supreme Court held that in such a situation, the CCI should have considered whether the parallel pricing resulted from the existence of the oligopsony rather than from collusion.
In the 2018 Flashlights case, two of the parties had applied for leniency. Notwithstanding this, the CCI found there was no breach of the Competition Act. An agreement suggestive of price-fixing was not in fact implemented. There was evidence of exchanges of sales, production and past price information, but the CCI held that this in itself is not a violation of the cartel provisions, in the absence of collusion.
In the 2018 Indian Glycols case, the CCI rejected allegations that a number of oil companies had, in floating a joint tender for the supply of ethanol, breached Section 3 of the Competition Act; this could not be regarded as anti-competitive, particularly where there were evident efficiency benefits. However, the CCI found that a number of suppliers of ethanol had quoted the same or similar prices in tenders to public sector oil companies and that they and two trade associations that had facilitated this were guilty of bid rigging. The CCI held that the suppliers did not have any plausible explanation for quoting the same or similar prices and that they had clearly colluded. The CCI imposed penalties on each of the suppliers of ethanol at 7% of the average of their turnover over three years from their ethanol business, amounting in aggregate to INR 37.58 crores (approx. USD 5.5 million), and on each of the associations (for facilitating the cartel) at 10% of its average receipts over three years, amounting in aggregate to INR 47.16 lakhs (approx. USD 68,000).
The SCA lost two major cartel cases, that it brought before the Patent and Market Court of Appeal in 2017 and early 2018 respectively. Both cases concerned alleged bid-rigging in public procurements.
Between June 2017 and March 2018, the CPC has issued 43 decisions, 29 of which concerned examination of notifications of concentrations between undertakings, issuing clearance decisions to 27 of them in Phase I and to one of them in Phase II on the basis of certain terms and conditions and one decision for infringement of Competition Law.
The last few years the CPC has imposed huge fines in cartel cases. It imposed on JCC Payment Systems Limited, Bank of Cyprus Public Company Ltd, Marfin Popular Bank Public Co Ltd, Hellenic Bank Public Co Ltd, USB Bank Plc, Alpha Bank Cyprus Ltd, Emporiki Bank of Cyprus Ltd, National Bank of Greece (Cyprus) Ltd and Societe Generale Cyprus Ltd, total administrative fines amounting to €31.009.766 for the infringement of Articles 3(1)(a) and 6(1)(a) and (b) of the Protection of Competition Law.
In the decision 51/2017, the CPC imposed a total fine of €20.775.630 on the Cypriot based fuel companies ExxonMobil Cyprus Ltd, Hellenic Petroleum Cyprus Ltd, Petrolina Holdings (Public) Ltd και Lukoil Cyprus Ltd after an investigation carried out on its own initiative. The CPC unanimously decided that the above four companies during the period from 1.10.2004 to 22.12.2006 breached section 3 (1) (a) of the Law on the Protection of Competition (equivalent to Article 101 (1) TFEU) by engaging – through their vertical agreements with their respective service station dealers – in direct or indirect resale price maintenance. It was decided that such anticompetitive practice had the object or effect to prevent, restrict or distort the competition within the Republic of Cyprus. The infringement of the companies extends until 3 December 2015, as it did not appear from the data before the CPC that it had ceased before that date. The CPC imposed administrative fines on ExxonMobil Cyprus Ltd, Hellenic Petroleum Cyprus Ltd, Petrolina (Holding) Public Ltd and Lukoil Cyprus Ltd of €8.7 million, €5 million, €5.7 million and €1.4 million, respectively. The decision of the CPC has been appealed before the Administrative Court and the decision of the decision of the Court is now pending.
In addition, in its decision in the case 29/2018, the CPC announced that, the companies Alfa Concrete Public Company Ltd, Athinodorou & Poullas Super Beton Ltd, Top Mix Concrete Ltd, Skyramix Ltd, K Kythreotis Skyrodema Ltd, Matheos Ioannou Etimo Beton Ltd, Betoman Limited, I & S Kritonis Limited and Psaroudis Beton Limited have infringed Section 3(1)(a) and 3(1)(c) of the Competition Law on price fixing and market sharing in the market for concrete, especially as regards various government tenders. In particular, the CPC’s own-initiative investigation relates to possible manipulation of specific public tenders announced by the Ministry for Transport Communications and Works for the provision and transport of ready-made concrete through (1) agreement for allocation of the tenders between the various tenderers and (2) direct or indirect price fixing. Τhe CPC imposed fines to abovementioned companies €50.000 to €300.000 to each company and instructed the companies to immediately terminate the infringement any avoid any repetition of the cartel behavior in the future.
The Competition laws are relatively new and the same became enforced in the last few years in UAE. According to our knowledge, there is no court case or referrals made by the Ministry of Economy to prosecution office for criminal proceeding in a violation of Competition Laws. All cases are being filed administratively before the Ministry of Economy and the same get referred to Competition Committee for examination, investigation, deliberation and further meetings with parties. The Competition Committee functions under the umbrella of Consumers Protection Department within the Ministry of Economy. According to our knowledge, all Competition related complaints/cases are being resolved amicably and settlement are signed with defendants. As mentioned earlier, the settlement terms in Competition law obliges defendant to pay equivalent to no less than double the minimum statutory fines.
As confidentiality is a core statutory requirement, public should not have access to details of competition cases unless final resolution is published in local newspapers according to the law. Therefore, all administrative cases are being held with acceptable level of confidentiality and no information should be revealed to public.
In term of number of cases, we do except that a range of 10-15 cases have been filed and examined by the Ministry of Economy/ Competition Committee thus far. There is no official accessible records to confirm a precise number or there is an announcement by Competition Committee to confirm number of cases.