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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Office for the Protection of Economic Competition recently reviewed vertical aspects of online platforms and distribution channels, ultimately fining online booking platform Booking.com 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
While the advance of the digital economy and the growth of e-commerce affects competition in the Czech Republic, the Office for the Protection of Competition has not yet developed a special strategy or coherent decision-making practice with respect to the specific issues relating to digital markets. That said, the office has issued several decisions regarding competition in online markets – in particular, regarding mergers between e-shop operators and e-shop resale price maintenance arrangements.
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.
Under Czech law, a parent company, controlling entity or influential entity may be liable for the obligations of a bankrupt corporation under its control. Respective controlling entities' liability is a frequently discussed issue and closely related to the common law doctrine known as 'piercing the corporate veil'. The judiciary and legal academic community are torn when it comes to applying particular provisions of the Corporations Act in such situations.
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.
Frivolous insolvency petitions are typically observed in sectors which are built on repeat long-term relationships. These petitions aim to discredit and damage competitors' reputations in a particular market. In response to the rising trend of filing frivolous insolvency petitions, the Supreme Court and the legislature have taken steps to protect alleged debtors that are wrongly accused and stigmatised by others as being insolvent.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.