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December 3, 2021

Competition Council, fines worth EUR 20 M, fewer probes in 2013

The Competition Council (CC) last year issued fines worth approximately RON 87 M (nearly EUR 20 M), up 187 percent against 2012, but 15 times less than in 2011.
“The very high level registered in 2011 was due to the completion with fines of some cases that involved companies with very substantial turnover, such as the cartel in the market of fuel, the abuses of dominant position in the case of Orange and Vodafone”, reads the activity report for 2013 of the CC presented yesterday.
Among the highest fines ordered last year by CC are those against the 14 member companies of ROREC and ECOTIC, up to a total value of RON 56.5 M (approximately EUR 12.7 M). The Council also fined EUR 16.85 M (about EUR 3.76 M) Compania Nationala Loteria Romana, Intralot SA Integrated Lottery Systems and Services, Intracom Holdings, for anti-competition agreements.
As regards the types of law infringements, 79.5 pc of the total sanctions were for horizontal agreements, 19.9 pc for vertical agreements, 0.2 pc for enforcing an economic concentration before notification and its authorising by CC.
The Competition Council has, by the activity exerted in 2013, proved it has remained an arbitrator, Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta said to the event launching the institution’s last year report. Ponta added he very much appreciates the fact that in the two years he has been cooperating with the Council as a prime minister, the body ‘has really been an arbitrator’. He congratulated the Council chiefs for ‘the excellent initiative’ of having ‘a special partnership with the counterpart institution in the Republic of Moldova’.
The idea of competition and free market is “ideal” for the Romanian market of gas, because only two producers exist and the decisions regarding one of them are made in Vienna, while for the other they are made at DNA, Ponta added. He mentioned his interest for the energy reform not affecting the big consumers, which would cause negative consequences in the social and budgetary sectors, while also reducing the external competitiveness of Romania. Asked by the press about the company he referred to, when he said that the decisions are made at the DNA, Ponta explained that the company is Romgaz, whose former managers are under prosecution, so the acting managers are reluctant making decisions. On this occasion, PM Ponta assured the CC president Bogdan Chiritoiu that the government will support him for a new mandate.
Regarding the expansion of the measure about the partial refund of a sum from the supplementary excise on fuel enforced starting April 1 to other categories of companies than road carriers, Chiritoiu said is not impossible, but is still difficult to obtain from the European Commission, which must be convinced of its economic role, said the president of CC.
Largest number of investigations, in the construction sector
In 2013, CC launched 18 investigations, 12 of which regarding possible infringements of competition laws and 6 regarding certain economic sectors (sectoral probes). The number of investigations launched in 2013 diminished by 22 pc compared to 2012 and by 50 pc against 2011, which indicates that the competition authority stepped up its efforts aimed at finalising the cases already under way. Out of the 12 investigations concerning possible infringements of competition laws which started in 2013, approximately 67 pc were launched by CC from its own initiative, following the sectoral probes conducted by the competition authority. Most investigations targeted the road construction sector, the milk industry and the cinematographic sector.
“Considering the total number of investigations under way at the beginning of 2013, as well as those initiated through the year (cases regarding the possible infringement of competition laws and sectoral probes), it results that the Romanian competition authority completed 24 pc of the cases under analysis,” reads the report.
The average duration of investigations regarding possible infringements of competition laws finalised in 2013 was 3 years. In 2013, the average completion time increased by half a year compared to 2012 and with little over a month compared to 2011.
For the last 3 years, one can notice a constant decline of the total number of investigations that were still conducted at the end of the year, also with respect to the number of those concerning possible infringements to the laws of competitions, while the number of sectoral probes was on an opposite trend.
According to the report for 2013, last year the percentage of final decisions favourable to CC was 93 percent, down 1 percent against 2012 and up 5 percent from 2011, while that of final decisions favourable to the Council was 82 percent, down 12 percent against 2012 and 7 percent against 2011. Among the most important cases finalised in court last year with definitive/irrevocable decisions are the cartel for the withdrawal of Eco Premium fuel from the market and the cartel on the market of compulsory private pensions – Pillar II.
In a different move, the value of state aid lines approved for 55 companies reached EUR 684 M during 2008-2014, of which EUR 259.2 M have been paid, said Livia Stan, general director in the Ministry of Public Finance, who attended the event.

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