The Office for the Protection of Competition (“Office”) recently published an annual report summarizing its significant activities in 2020 and outlining the agenda for 2021. The most important areas are prohibited agreements, abuse of a dominant position and significant market power.
In 2020, in the area of competition, the Office received 175 complaints, commenced 60 administrative proceedings, issued 65 first-instance decisions and imposed fines of over CZK 266 million (approx. EUR 10.2 million). Nine proceedings were related to the prohibited agreements (from 83 complaints) and one to the abuse of the dominant position (from 66 complaints). The Office also handled 50 merger cases.
The most problematic area from a business point of view was horizontal agreements, for which the Office imposed, in its seven decisions, fines in the total amount of CZK 221 million, approx. EUR 8.5 million, with significant fines in the field of information technology and rail freight transport. Four decisions were related to prohibited resale price agreements, mostly between distributors and retailers. In one case, the Office decided on the abuse of a dominant position and imposed a fine of over CZK 20 million (approx. EUR 774,000) on the collective administrator Intergram for unreasonable conditions in contracts with accommodation facilities. In the area of supervision over anticompetitive conduct of public administration bodies, five sanction decisions were issued concerning generally binding decrees regulating gambling, and one decision in relation to the rules for parking hybrid cars in Prague.
In the area of significant market power, the Office issued two decisions in 2020 and imposed a fine of over CZK 32 million (approx. EUR 1.2 million) for the transfer of business risk and losses associated with the sale of goods with an expiring warranty period to the suppliers.
Regarding judicial review, the Office was successful in defending all its competition decisions during 2020.
The Office drafted an amendment to the Act on the Protection of Competition, to implement the Directive (EU) 2019/1 of 11 December 2018 to empower the competition authorities of the Member States to be more effective enforcers and to ensure the proper functioning of the internal market. This bill is still at the beginning of the legislative procedure.
The Office also suggested an amendment to the Electronic Communications Act, under which it would be entitled to request a legal or natural person providing a public communications network or a publicly available electronic communications service for operational and location data. The Office intends to use this authorization to detect anticompetitive conduct and subsequently to conduct administrative proceedings properly. The bill is also at the beginning of the legislative procedure.
Agenda for 2021
In 2021, the Office intends to continue to detect and punish bid rigging, prohibited agreements and abuse of dominant position. As far as business areas are concerned, the Office will focus in particular on the electronic communications, pharmaceutical, transportation, construction and e-commerce sectors.