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Competition & Antitrust

Competition authority battles non-cooperative competitors
Czech Republic | 11 February 2021

The Office for the Protection of Competition recently issued two press releases in which it confirmed one fine and imposed another on non-cooperative competitors, the first for an obstruction during a dawn raid and the second for not replying to a request for information. The fines demonstrate how important it is for companies to be aware of their procedural rights and obligations during investigations carried out by the office.

Competition authority imposes fine on retailer for abuse of significant market power
Czech Republic | 14 January 2021

The Office for the Protection of Competition recently announced in a press release that it had imposed a Kc32 million (approximately €1.2 million) fine on Czech retail chain HRUŠKA, spol sro for an alleged abuse of significant market power. According to the press release, the retail chain allegedly violated the Significant Market Power Act by fully transferring all business risks and losses associated with the sale of goods nearing their expiration date to dozens of its suppliers between 2016 and 2019.

Supreme Administrative Court backs gun-jumping decision
Czech Republic | 03 December 2020

In 2017 the Office for the Protection of Competition imposed a gun-jumping fine of Kc4.9 million (approximately €190,000) on Armex Oil sro, a company active in the wholesale fuel market (gasoline and diesel). However, Armex Oil challenged the amount of the fine before the competent regional court, which found the fine to be disproportionate and reduced it. The office then filed an appeal with the Supreme Administrative Court, which ultimately backed the original fine.

E-cigarette distributor fined for resale price maintenance
Czech Republic | 24 September 2020

In a first-instance decision, the Office for the Protection of Competition has fined RITCHY EU sro Kc6.7 million (€270,000) for resale price maintenance practices. According to the decision, RITCHY EU, a distributor of e-cigarettes and refills, violated the Act on the Protection of Competition between 6 September 2017 and 31 March 2019 by imposing on its customers minimum resale prices for the goods concerned.

City of Prague fined for unfair parking rules
Czech Republic | 20 August 2020

The Office for the Protection of Competition recently fined the City of Prague Kc980,000 (approximately €36,981) for creating anti-competitive parking conditions for hybrid vehicles. According to the office's press release, between 17 April 2018 and 30 April 2019 the City of Prague violated the Act on the Protection of Competition by favouring the parking of certain hybrid vehicles in paid parking zones in its territory without objectively justifiable reasons.

Constitutional Court upholds Act on Significant Market Power but declares 3% limit on marketing payments unconstitutional
Czech Republic | 14 May 2020

The Constitutional Court recently upheld the Act on Significant Market Power, despite demands for its repeal by a group of senators almost four years ago. However, the court stated that the provision limiting the amount of suppliers' payments to customers with significant market power to 3% of the suppliers' annual sales is unconstitutional. This decision is of fundamental importance to future cooperation between suppliers and customers.

Competition authority seeks to obtain data from mobile phone operators
Czech Republic | 23 April 2020

To facilitate the detection of anti-competitive behaviour, the Office for the Protection of Competition has proposed an amendment to the Act on Electronic Communication. Based on the amendment, the office would be entitled to request individual activity and location data (ie, date, time, mode of communication and duration) from mobile phone operators. However, access to this data would not be possible without prior judicial written permission.

Competition authority under scrutiny for alleged fishing expedition
Czech Republic | 19 December 2019

The legality of on-site inspections (also known as dawn raids) carried out by the Office for the Protection of Competition at the premises of betting companies in early 2019 is currently under judicial review. For its part, the office maintains that dawn raids are an efficient tool for investigating possible competition law infringements. Moreover, it recently published an information letter on dawn raids and intervention actions on its website.

New developments in competition authority's decision-making practice: whistleblowers and appointed guardians
Czech Republic | 15 August 2019

The Office for the Protection of Competition recently found two companies guilty of bid rigging in a public tender. While similar bid-rigging cases occur quite frequently and generally fall within the office's purview, this case is unique because, for the first time, the office was informed about the anti-competitive behaviour by a whistleblower and appointed a guardian for one of the parties involved.

Health products distributor fined for resale price maintenance
Czech Republic | 04 April 2019

The Office for the Protection of Economic Competition recently fined Czech health products supplier TCM Herbs Kc853,000 (approximately €33,500) for resale price maintenance (RPM). TCM Herbs has appealed the decision. The office has not issued an RPM decision in a long time. As such, the outcome of the review by its chair will be closely followed and hopefully indicative in terms of how (or if) the office will consider a more economic approach.

Competition office fines €0.33 million
Czech Republic | 28 March 2019

The Office for the Protection of Economic Competition recently reviewed vertical aspects of online platforms and distribution channels, ultimately fining online booking platform approximately €0.33 million for using most-favoured-nation (MFN) clauses in its contracts with hotels. Although the decision has not yet been published, it is hoped that it will be instructive in terms of how the office examines the conditions under which MFN clauses may be considered anti-competitive.

Office for the Protection of Competition gets tougher on fines for competition law infringements
Czech Republic | 18 October 2018

The Office for the Protection of Competition recently adopted new guidelines on the method of setting fines for competition law infringements. The new guidelines are intended to underline the repressive and preventive function of fines. As a result, undertakings can expect higher fines for infringements of competition rules than under the previous regime.

Competition Authority fines firm for restrictive clauses in lease agreements
Czech Republic | 28 June 2018

Restrictive clauses are common in commercial lease agreements. Such clauses can limit a landlord's ability to lease property to other tenants, restrict a tenant's business activities to a certain geographical area or control the subleasing of property. Restrictive clauses in lease agreements may appear to be problem-free and reflective of the contractual freedom of the parties, which forms one of the pillars of civil law. However, when certain restrictive clauses are scrutinised, a number of issues can become apparent.

Competition Authority publishes information paper on dawn raids
Czech Republic | 14 December 2017

The Czech Competition Authority (CCA) recently published an information paper on dawn raids during its annual competition law conference. The paper aims to provide guidance explaining the powers and privileges of CCA officials in the course of a dawn raid and a brief overview of the case law relating to dawn raids, focusing on judicial review of the legality of dawn raids carried out after the European Court of Human Rights' judgment in Delta Pekárny.

New law implementing EU Damages Directive
Czech Republic | 14 September 2017

With the introduction of the Damages Act, the Czech Republic has finally implemented the EU Damages Directive, which establishes common EU rights for cartel victims seeking damages. The Damages Act introduces many novelties into national law, which aim to improve the procedural status of citizens and businesses that claim compensation before the national courts for damages caused by an infringement of EU or national antitrust rules.

Anti-competitive agreements in telecoms sector
Czech Republic | 02 February 2017

The Office for the Protection of Competition recently fined Czech mobile operators Vodafone Czech Republic as and O2 Czech Republic as a total of Kr99 million after it deemed an agreement on an exclusive, direct interconnection between the two operators included in a 2001 interconnection agreement to be anti-competitive. Another case in the telecoms sector which was originally initiated by the office is now under the jurisdiction of the European Commission.

New information letter on amendment to Significant Market Power Act
Czech Republic | 20 October 2016

While the 2016 amendment to the Significant Market Power Act sought to remove and clarify ambiguous provisions within the act and generally provide greater protection to suppliers, several provisions remained vague and were thus open to interpretation. As such, the Office for the Protection of Competition recently issued an information letter to clarify and explain the changes introduced by the amendment.

Competition Protection Agency adopts commitments for Hyundai Auto Trade
Slovenia | 09 June 2016

The Competition Protection Agency recently issued a final decision accepting Hyundai Avto Trade doo's commitments regarding its alleged anti-competitive behaviour. In the agency's view, the commitments will enhance competition between authorised and independent mechanics and help the agency to monitor the behaviour and compliance of the addressees. The addressees must comply with the decision within three months of its adoption.

Future of private competition law enforcement
Czech Republic | 03 March 2016

The Prague Municipal Court recently dismissed the private damages action brought by private railway passenger carrier LEO Express against publicly owned national incumbent Czech Railways due to a lack of evidence. Although the judgment is not publicly available, the available information already raises the question of whether it might shed a negative light on the future of private enforcement of competition law in the Czech Republic.

Competition Authority imposes €74 million fine for bid rigging
Czech Republic | 10 December 2015

The Competition Authority recently announced in a press release that it had fined companies from the construction sector approximately €74 million for bid rigging. Despite the fact that only limited information is available, the fine seems exceptionally high compared to those imposed by the Competition Authority in the past.

Škoda Auto fined Kr49 million for resale price maintenance
Czech Republic | 09 July 2015

The Competition Authority recently issued a controversial decision in which it fined Škoda Auto Kr49 million for engaging in anti-competitive practices in the form of resale price maintenance. The decision deviated from the authority's established decision-making practice – in particular, its procedure for setting fines. It is unclear whether this is a one-off aberration or a complete departure from the authority's regular practice.

Third-party rights to appeal merger approval decisions
Czech Republic | 30 April 2015

The Supreme Administrative Court recently issued its judgment in Severní energetická. The court held that since third parties are not parties to administrative proceedings, they are not entitled to challenge merger approval decisions. However, it did leave open the possibility for third parties to challenge merger approval decisions by other means.

Competition Authority resumes dawn raids on business premises
Czech Republic | 12 March 2015

A 2003 European Court of Human Rights ruling held that the Office of Protection of Competition (CCA) could not perform dawn raids on business premises without first obtaining a warrant. However, the CCA recently announced that it would once again begin conducting raids on business premises without prior judicial warrants, stating that the absence of a judicial warrant is justified by a follow-up judicial review of the legality of the dawn raid.

Competition Authority cannot perform dawn raids without prior judicial approval
Czech Republic | 27 November 2014

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) recently confirmed that the Office for the Protection of Competition violated the European Convention on Human Rights when it entered Delta Bakery's premises without first obtaining a warrant. The ECHR's ruling has called into question all past and future administrative investigations on business premises performed with legal authorisation, but without a judicial warrant.

Similarity of bids insufficient evidence for bid rigging
Czech Republic | 21 August 2014

A similarity or even an overlap of parts of bids does not constitute sufficient evidence to establish a breach of national competition law. This follows from a recent Competition Authority decision in an alleged bid-rigging case. By this decision, the authority challenged its own approach concerning the prosecution of bid rigging. Further, the decision has provided a universal excuse for bid rigging among competitors.

Recorded telephone conversation – legal evidence in administrative proceedings
Czech Republic | 12 June 2014

A recently published Supreme Administrative Court decision found that a telephone conversation between two individuals was legitimate evidence in administrative proceedings. It is hoped that this judgment will help companies abused by competitors to persuade the CCA that anti-competitive behaviour has taken place.

Controversial Brno Regional Court decision slows down notification procedure
Czech Republic | 03 April 2014

Following a recent controversial ruling by the Brno Regional Court, parties to notification proceedings are now unable to speed up the legal force of the approval decision issued by the Competition Authority. They must wait until 15 days have passed after issuance of the decision before proceeding with their business. If any third party appeals the approval decision, the notification procedure will be prolonged.

Damages claims for infringing competition rules: higher chance of success?
Czech Republic | 30 January 2014

Under existing EU legislation, if there is a causal relationship between harm suffered and an infringement of competition rules, any individual is entitled to claim compensation for such harm. However, potential claimants have remained rather sceptical of bringing antitrust damages actions so far. This may change with the adoption of a proposed EU directive on actions for damages for infringements of competition law.

Recent case law opens up third-party access to administrative files
Czech Republic | 07 November 2013

The Czech courts recently handed down decisions on access to administrative files that will have an impact on all proceedings in the competition arena. Under certain circumstances, third parties can now apply for access to such files and, if granted access, view a non-confidential version of the files. This will impose a considerable burden on the Competition Authority and may prolong proceedings.

Prioritisation in competition cases: a step forward?
Czech Republic | 14 February 2013

The forthcoming amendment to the Act on the Protection of Competition will make several changes to Competition Authority practices. Among other things, the amendment will introduce prioritisation into its practices, allowing the authority to decide not to initiate administrative proceedings following certain alleged breaches of the act where those breaches have a minor effect on competition.

Competition Authority increases fine on Telefónica Czech Republic
Czech Republic | 08 November 2012

In a recent repeated first instance decision, the Competition Authority imposed a fine of approximately Kr93.1 million (approximately €3.7 million) on Telefónica Czech Republic for abuse of its dominant position in the public telephone services market in relation to undertakings through fixed lines. The authority increased the original fine imposed on Telefónica for such anti-competitive conduct by more than Kr11.4 million.

Access to leniency applications in cartel investigations
Czech Republic | 14 June 2012

The Brno Regional Court has defined for the first time the rules that govern access by investigated undertakings to the leniency applications contained in the Competition Authority's administrative file during cartel investigations. The court allowed special treatment for leniency applications, ruling that the authority need not provide justification when restricting or denying access to the administrative file.

Authority contemplates extension of scope of Competition Act
Czech Republic | 28 April 2011

The Office for the Protection of Competition recently published a draft amendment to the Competition Act and opened a public consultation to receive feedback. The amendment follows the contemplated abolishment of the Act on Significant Market Power. The main provisions of the abolished act will be incorporated in the Competition Act. The remaining, mainly technical, provisions will be included in the Act on Prices.

Highest-ever fine for a vertical agreement
Czech Republic | 21 October 2010

The president of the Office for the Protection of Competition recently issued a second-instance decision confirming the authority's decision to fine Sokolovská uhelná for its participation in a vertical agreement. The fine amounted to Kr17.3 million (approximately €700,000) and is the highest ever to be imposed by the authority for participation in a vertical agreement.

Latest decisions and fines from the Office for the Protection of Competition
Czech Republic | 15 April 2010

The Office for the Protection of Competition recently approved the acquisition of a Czech construction company by a leading central European construction company. The office also imposed fines on a Czech brown coal mining company and a Czech producer of mineral water and soft drinks for the conclusion and performance of restricted export prohibition agreements.