The Commission on the Protection of Competition (CPC) recently issued a decision in which it penalised the funeral agency Elida MG EOOD (formerly Pokoy-1945 EOOD) for failing to comply with an earlier CPC decision. Such cases in which an undertaking fails to comply with a CPC decision and is therefore fined again are extremely rare due to the substantial pecuniary penalties which may be imposed on violators.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition (CPC) recently cleared the acquisition of Nova Broadcasting Group AD by Advance Media Group EAD, which is owned by the well-known Bulgarian businesspeople Kiril and Georgi Domuschievi. The CPC was adamant that the proposed acquisition would not cause anti-competitive effects in the TV distribution market because the two companies are not direct competitors; rather, they have a de facto vertical relationship.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition recently penalised Metro Cash & Carry for conducting an unfair comparative advertising campaign. Lidl Bulgaria EOOD had claimed that Metro's advertising campaign unfairly encouraged Lidl customers to shop at Metro instead. The case is a helpful reminder that companies designing advertising campaigns should carefully consider any direct or indirect references to their competitors, particularly if such references have negative connotations.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition (CPC) recently imposed a Lev840,340 fine on A1 Bulgaria for cancelling a partnership agreement with its main commercial representative, Handy-Tel EOOD. The CPC held that the cancellation had effectively violated Article 37a(1) of the Protection of Competition Act, which prohibits the abuse of a dominant position when contracting.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition (CPC) recently approved the acquisition of Rapido Express and Logistics OOD by its competitor Speedy AD. However, at the same time, the CPC penalised Speedy AD for failing to provide complete and accurate information in its concentration notification which the commission deemed materially and substantially important for evaluating the deal.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition (CPC) recently prohibited two concentrations in politically sensitive sectors (media and energy). The CPC's decisions were widely criticised for lacking valid economic arguments. Further, in both decisions the CPC limited its legal arguments to several paragraphs and failed to clarify how acquiring non-competitors (or at least non-major competitors) could strengthen the resulting group's dominant position and thus impede competition.
The Ministry of Tourism recently proposed the introduction of minimum prices for sites categorised as 'accommodation places'. However, the Commission for Protection of Competition (CPC) opined on the proposal's compliance with competition rules. The CPC highlighted the fact that accommodation prices depend on many factors other than category, which makes it practically impossible to set a minimum price for a category that would be adequate in every case.
The Act for Amendment and Supplementation of the Competition Protection Act was recently promulgated in the State Gazette. The new act follows the scope of the EU Damages Directive and applies to infringements of the Competition Protection Act regarding prohibited agreements and abuse of dominance.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition recently fined Laptop.BG for unfair practices in the form of contradicting genuine practices. An investigation was opened at the request of Golden Green Stone Group EOOD, the owner of online shopping brand eVarna, which claimed that a blogger had performed prohibited comparative advertising in favour of Laptop.BG, thereby damaging eVarna's reputation and consciously redirecting consumers to Laptop BG's online platforms.
The Competition Commission recently sent statements of objection for abuse of dominant position by three electricity distribution and supply companies. According to the commission, allegations were made that the companies had traded information regarding customers switching from the regulated market to the liberal market in order to purposely stall the necessary paperwork.
A recent competition breach by the Sofia Commodity Exchange AD resulted in a 0% fee for purchasers (ie, members of the exchange). The Supreme Administrative Court and the Competition Commission both held that the lack of fees had placed purchasers in a more favourable position, leading to unfair competition which contradicted good-faith practices. In addition to a fine based on the net turnover of sales, the commission ordered the immediate suspension of the exchange's breaching activities.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition (CPC) recently adopted an opinion on the draft act for the amendment of the Administrative Procedure Code. The CPC supports the introduction of electronic justice which, in its view, will increase the efficiency of the judiciary system and prevent unnecessary delays. However, it disagrees with the increase in state fees and the proposal that the state fee for cassation is to be defined as a percentage of the imposed penalty.
For the second time in less than five years the Commission for the Protection of Competition has opened investigation proceedings regarding prohibited agreements and concerted practices against the major fuel companies in Bulgaria and closed them without issuing penalties. An investigation was launched and the commission found that the retail price of some petrol companies in Bulgaria does not always follow the wholesale price and producers' prices.
Online and digital services are well represented in Bulgaria. However, no changes to the Competition Protection Act have been implemented or proposed as a result of the growth of the digital market, and no separate rules about online services have been issued or proposed by the Commission for Protection of Competition. Nonetheless, the development of digital services has led to changes in the Consumer Protection Act, meaning that there are specific rules regarding online sales and services.
The Competition Protection Commission recently fined Kaufland Bulgaria EOOD for abuse of stronger bargaining power regarding its supplier, Keti-94 OOD. This is the second commission decision relating to abuse of bargaining power – a concept introduced into Bulgarian legislation in July 2015. The commission found Kaufland's breach to be severe and imposed a 7% fine generated from Kaufland's turnover on the market for sales of low-priced alcohol.
The Commission for Protection of Competition recently conducted a sector analysis of the competition environment in Bulgaria's insurance market. The main purpose of the report was to provide insight into the insurance market and specify potential competition issues. It is expected that strategies, programmes and plans to improve the insurance environment will be adopted in the future by the relevant bodies.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition has fined Siemens EOOD for abuse of stronger bargaining power. Given the abstract wording of the term 'abuse of stronger bargaining position' in the Competition Protection Act and the lack of any methodology or instructions regarding its application, the commission's decision should be considered as initial guidance on how it will interpret the term in future.
The National Assembly has elected a new Competition Protection Commission panel. Despite the old panel's mandate coming to an end, the commission has showed an impressive level of antitrust activity. In May 2016 the commission issued several statements of objection against key players in the electricity production, wholesale and distribution markets, as well as opening an investigation into prohibited practices against a number of retail chains.
The Competition Protection Commission recently issued a statement of objection to Energo Pro Grid AD for abuse of its dominant position. The commission's investigation focused on Energo Pro's refusal to connect Kayko OOD's production site to the electricity distribution grid. However, in a press release, the commission did not clarify why Energo Pro's refusal to connect Kayko is considered to be unjustified.
The Competition Protection Commission recently issued a statement of objection against Aurubis Bulgaria AD and Aurubis AG. The commission has accused Aurubis of abuse of its dominant position in the Bulgarian market for the production and sale of sulphuric acid and for discriminating against its Bulgarian customers in favour of international clients.