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 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 Competition Protection Commission recently initiated an inquiry into Bulgaria's insurance sector, which will define competition problems and the reasons for them. The commission will publish its findings, which should be used as a platform for public discussion of the identified problems.
In a recent decision the Competition Protection Commission approved proposals for commitments from some of the largest retail chains in Bulgaria which had previously been suspected of prohibited practices. The commission found that the proposals contained specific measures which may prevent the restriction of competition in the relevant markets.
The Competition Protection Commission has adopted a regulation on remedies for the restoration of effective competition when it has serious doubts about whether a notified transaction may establish or strengthen a dominant position and opens an in-depth phase of the merger control proceedings. With the adoption of the regulation, the commission aims to make merger control proceedings more transparent.
The Competition Protection Commission recently adopted, for the first time, guidelines regarding the exchange of information between competitors. In addition, the commission lists in the guidelines examples of the unlawful exchange of information on the basis of its own practice, the practice of the European Commission and that of member states' anti-monopoly authorities.
The Competition Protection Commission recently announced that a statement of objection had been submitted to three Bulgarian travel agencies for infringement of the cartel prohibition under Article 15, Paragraph 1 of the Competition Protection Act. The three companies are accused of having manipulated the public procurement procedure for the provision of airline tickets for business trips.
Following an investigation into the hotel sector in which it considered market characteristics including supply and demand, price dynamics, the market shares of hotels within each category in different municipalities, the contractual relationships between hotels and tour operators and the role of trade associations, the Competition Protection Commission has held that operators in the sector have not engaged in anti-competitive behaviour.
The Competition Protection Commission has completed an inquiry into the Bulgarian fuel sector. The investigation focused on commercial relationships between participants in the market for the production, import and sale of gasoline and diesel. The inquiry also aimed to identiy legal and administrative barriers to market entry which arose under the Bulgarian legal framework.
The Competition Protection Commission has initiated two new sector inquiries. As a reaction to a dramatic increase in fuel prices, the commission recently started sector inquiries into the market for the production and realisation of gas oil and diesel. It has also initiated an investigation into the inter-related grain, wheat flour and bread markets following an increase in bread prices.
According to the Competition Protection Commission, the Bulgarian milk market suffers from similar problems to the equivalent markets in other EU member states. Following a recent investigation, the commission cited the conclusions of the European Commission and its recommendation that these problems be solved by implementing changes to EU common agriculture policy and the applicable national and EU competition laws.
In July 2009 the Competition Protection Commission initiated procedures against the largest retail chains in Bulgaria for suspected prohibited practices. The procedures were opened after the commission received several indications from the Bulgarian Confederation of Employers and Industrialists that the chains were engaged in anti-competitive activity.
The Commission on the Protection of Competition adopted the Rules on the Examination of Proposals for Commitments under the Law on the Protection of Competition. The new competition act stipulates that investigations have two phases. At the end of the first phase, if there is sufficient evidence of an infringement, the commission will prepare a statement of objections and start an in-depth investigation.
During 2007 and 2008 the Commission for Protection of Competition conducted six cartel investigations in different sectors. Following five of the investigations the commission imposed fines for price fixing and the exchange of sensitive commercial information. Two of these decisions have been upheld by the courts and are now binding.