Sunday, 13 April 2014 08:29

Decision 588/2014

Terms, conditions and the procedure for accepting commitments by the interested companies and issues related to the suspension of deadlines of paragraphs 4 and 5 of article 15 of Law 3959/2011.

Decision 588/2014
File (PDF) Decision 588/2014
Date of Publication of Decision April 13th, 2014

Subject of the Decision

Terms, conditions, and the procedure for accepting commitments by the interested companies as well as issues related to the suspension of deadlines of paragraphs 4 and 5 of article 15 of Law 3959/2011.

Legal Framework

Article 15 par. 4-5 of L. 3959/2011

Summary of Decision

The Hellenic Competition Commission (HCC) with its Decision No. 588/2014 determined the terms, conditions, and the procedure for accepting commitments by the interested companies for the termination of possible violations of articles 1 and 2 of Law 3959/2011 or 101 and 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

HCC with its Decision:

a) optimizes the current administrative practice, with emphasis on the acceleration and efficiency of the process. These principles are served when the companies involved express an interest in taking commitments as early as possible during the case investigation process, 

b) ensures the selection of the most appropriate measures undertakenand / or sanctions in the context of each case,from the point of view of public interest and competition policy. To this end, it delimits those cases in which acceptance of commitments is deemed appropriate based on the nature of the infringement, the characteristics of the market and the benefit expected from the commitments, considering the sanctioning and deterrent nature of fines, and adopts clear criteria for initiating the assessment process and proceeding with acceptance or non-acceptance of the proposed commitments,

c) institutes for the first time a process of consultation with market participants on the proposed commitments, with the aim of more fully and effectively addressing the identified competition problems. The consultation, if deemed appropriate, can take various forms, even in combination, such as telephone interviews with representatives of companies, business associations or other bodies and public consultation,

d) provides guidance to companies on both the procedure and the relevant deadlines as well as the terms and conditions of acceptance of commitments.

To this end, HCC has taken into account European practice, its experience to date in accepting commitments in critical and / or rapidly growing sectors of the national economy (eg energy, satellite television, broadcasting), as well as EU and national case law regarding the wide discretion of the Authority to initiate the relevant procedure and to accept commitments voluntarily proposed by the undertakings concerned.

Briefly, based on the Decision:

Criteria for initiating the process and accepting commitments:

1. HCC enjoys wide discretion to decide whether to initiate or not the commitments’ evaluation process and whether to accept or not the commitments proposed by the companies involved.

2. The companies involved may propose commitments in any case of possible violations of both article 1 and article 2 of Law 3959/2011.

HCC considers it appropriate to accept commitments in cases where the existing competition concerns:

a) are easily identifiable and

b) are fully addressed by the commitments offered and no new competition concerns are created and

c) can be solved effectively and in a short time.

However, HCC will not accept commitments:

a) in case of particularly severe (hard core) restrictions of competition,

b) in severe cases of abuse of a dominant position,

c) in horizontal collusive practices (cartels) which are examined under the leniency program.

3. The companies involved can propose commitments at any stage during the Authority’s investigation.

HCC considers it appropriate to accept commitments, as they contribute to HCC's resource savings as well asthe acceleration and efficiency of the case examination process, and urges the companies involved to express their interest in making commitments as soon as possible.

However, HCC does not consider it appropriate to accept commitments in cases where a Statement of Objections has already been notified to the Parties.

4. The process of evaluating commitments starts if:

a) The company's intention to make commitments that fully and effectively address competition concerns is sincere and

b) this case is suitable for accepting commitments and

c) the nature and characteristics of the commitments, considering their content and type, are appropriate for restoring competitive conditions in the market.

Procedure:

To facilitate the interested parties with regard tothe procedure followed, its stages are set out in an Annex to the Decision, the  main points of which concern:

  • Preparatory meetings with the General Directorate of Competition (GDA) and / or the Rapporteur at any stage of the investigation.
  • Evaluation of the criteria for starting the process and notification to the interested companies of the invitation to submit a final proposal of commitments.
  • Consultation with market participants, if deemed necessary, on the proposed commitments.
  • Notification of a Statement of Objections for acceptance of the final proposal of commitments, as formulated and invitationof the involved parties and the complainant to an oral hearing process.

HCC decision, which will make the commitments mandatory for the parties.

Judicial Means Final. No judicial proceedings.
Decisions by the Court of Appeal of Athens (Administrative Division) -
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