This year, the activity of the Competition Council is intense, both in terms of conducted investigations and of those that are going to be finalized, stated the President of the institution, Bogdan Chiritoiu, for News.ro, pointing out that more and more companies have recently admitted they are guilty, when they saw the evidence within the investigations.
“2017 is the year with the most intense activity for the Council. We started nine investigation, which is quite much. They are related to infrastructure works, where we suspect the existence of certain cartels, others are related to the tariffs for the connection to the gas networks” Bogdan Chiritoiu stated.
Chiritoiu also says that in the following period, investigations in important sectors will be finalized, cases in which we had suspicions of tricked auctions, such as the case of the Agency for Payments and Intervention in Agriculture (APIA), where the authority investigated a possible tricking of the auction for IT services, and another case refers to companies suspicioned of tricking some auctions for drilling works provided to Transgaz and Romgaz.
He added that an investigation on a possible cartel for the acquisition of electric equipment by Electrica and the one in the tourism field, which was started last year, in April, will be finalized also this year.
Another investigation that will be finalized soon refers to the insurance sector, being started by the Competition Council in 2015, ex officio. The investigation is related to a possible breach of the competition rules by Media Xprimm and the National Union of the Insurance and Reinsurance Companies in Romania and by the UNSAR member insurance companies. The investigation in the retail sector, in which are involved the Cora and Carrefour chains, will be ready also by the end of the year.
“The companies found guilty are risking fines of at least 4% of their turnover” added the President of the Competition Council.
According to Chiritoiu, almost all the fined companies are challenging the sanctions in front of the court, but the institution he is leading wins most of these trials.
“2016 was the second year in a raw in which the anti-competitive deeds found and sanctioned by us have been totally confirmed by the High Court of Cassation and Justice, which proves that our investigations are good” he says.
He claims that this is the result of some complex procedures that remove the possibility of making abuse and that lead to solid, well-grounded cases.
“We have many internal mechanisms to ensure quality – any investigation is checked by several teams, we need a judicial mandate to be able to conduct inspections, we are working very closely with the European Commission – more than a half of our cases must go to Brussels, too, and they are supervised by the European Commission, which decreases much the risks to make mistakes or abuses” Chiritoiu explained.
At the same time, the President of the competition authority says that more and more companies have recently admitted their guilt, when they saw the evidence within the investigations.
“The admission procedure worked very well lately, more and more companies admit they are guilty, analyzing their behavior and seeing our evidence within the investigations. It is preferable for them to admit they are guilty before issuing the investigation report, because this way we can grant a higher reduction of the fine. This way, it is advantageous for everybody: both we and they are released from court costs. We are a predictable institution, with a good reputation, and I believe that, in the end, companies appreciate us and see us as a serious arbitrator which is independent on the market” Bogdan Chiritoiu added.
Last year, 93 companies of 120 sanctioned companies admitted they breached the law. The fine may be reduced up to 30% of the initial level, if the companies admit they are guilty before finalizing the investigation, and up to 20%, if they partially admit their guilt.
“If the report is already issued and we are in the final step of the hearing, we reduce their fine only with 15% if they totally admit their guilt, and with 10% if they partially admit it” the official pointed out.