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15 August 2013
Following February's instigation of an antitrust procedure against distributors of natural gas(1) (under Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union and its Slovenian equivalent, Article 6 of the Competition Act), in late July the Competition Protection Agency carried out an inspection at the business premises of Geoplin, the biggest supplier of natural gas in Slovenia.
The antitrust proceeding instigated in February concerned allegations that 16 natural gas distributors, together with the commercial association for natural gas distribution, had exchanged sensitive commercial information and engaged in concerted practices of price fixing on the market for natural gas distribution to household customers.
In contrast, the investigation against Geoplin - which (according to the agency) does not form part of the proceedings instigated in February - is allegedly focused on Geoplin's potential abuse of its dominant position. However, although the investigation began several weeks ago, the agency has not yet produced any further information with respect to the documentation found at the business premises or the continuation of the procedure.
Based on media reports, the agency is looking into two classic anti-competitive manoeuvres in the energy market - long-term supply agreements concluded for up to 10 years and 'take or pay' clauses - both of which prevent clients from switching to alternative suppliers without (substantive) costs.
Both the latest investigation and the earlier antitrust proceedings confirm that the agency is following the enforcement priorities laid down in March 2013 by its director, Andrej Krašek, when he announced that the energy, postal services, food and telecommunications sectors were of particular interest to the agency.
(1) For further details on this topic please see "New Competition Protection Agency sets out enforcement priorities".
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