Friday, 05 October 2012 00:00

Decision 548/2012

Re-examination of the ex-officio investigation case carried out by the HCC into the market for automotive liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

Decision 548/2012
File (PDF) Decision 548/2012
Date of Issuance of Decision

October 5th, 2012

Issue Number of Government Bulletin
Relevant Market

Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG)

Subject of the Decision

Anti-competitive Agreements, Abuse of a Dominant Position

Legal Framework

Articles 1 and 2 of L. 3959/2011

Operative part of the Decision

No finding of infringement

Complainant(s)

Ex-officio investigation

Company(ies) concerned

PetroGaz

Summary of Decision

In view of the complaint filed by Mr. […], a hotel οwner from Chania, Crete, to the Ministry of Development, the Directorate-General for Competition (DGC) initiated an ex-officio investigation into the LPG sales market. In particular, in his complaint to the Ministry of Development dated 19/08/2004, Mr. […], the hotel owner […] from Chania, states that, because LPG was advertised as the cheapest fuel, costing 0.35 € per liter in Athens, he installed a specific LPG retrofit system in two of his cars, paying € 1,500.00 in total. However, as he found out later, in Chania, in March 2004, LPG costed 0.73 €/lt and 0.77 €/lt at the time period of the complaint. He also notes that the restaurant of his hotel is equipped with a gas tank, which is supplied at a cost of 0.28 €/lt, because "it is not a monopoly like the relevant market for automotive LPG in Chania", which is supplied by the only existing gas station under the brand PetroGaz which sells automotive LPG to private customers at a price three times higher.

Following the relevant investigation, the DGC drafted a Statement of Objections (SO), which was introduced before the Plenary of the Hellenic Competition Commission and discussed during the hearing of the 16th of June 2005. On 22.3.2012, the HCC dealt with the issue of the absence of a decision on the above case, however it postponed the adoption of a decision in order to further investigate the case. On 28.3.2012, the President of the HCC referred again to this case and, with a view to completing its examination, he proposed to re-introduce it before the HCC. The Commission unanimously decided to reconsider the case on the basis of the existing SO. In this context, PetroGaz was summoned to appear before the HCC during the oral hearing for the examination of the case following the SO.

Following the above, by this Decision, the HCC defined the relevant product markets for the case, as being the trading market (wholesale) and the distribution market (retail sale) for automotive LPG. PetroGaz argued that, as far as the products included in the same market at each level of the supply chain, gasoline is included along with automotive LPG, because the use, the characteristics and the inversely proportional difference between price and consumption of both fuels lead to the conclusion that automotive LPG is a complete substitute for gasoline and vice versa. However, the HCC decided that petrol and LPG do not fall under the same relevant market, after first considering the possibility of substituting LPG with other petroleum products for automotive use, the (significantly varying) price differences between them, the special equipment required for LPG. It therefore concluded that the substitutability between LPG and other petroleum products for automotive use is limited, and consequently LPG is considered to belong to a separate product market. In terms of geographic market, for the relevant market of wholesale of automotive LPG, the whole territory of Greece was considered as the relevant geographic market. On the other hand, for the relevant product market of LPG retail sale, the Commission examined consumer access to LPG supply network and, thus, defined as relevant (distinct) geographic retail markets of automotive LPG retail sale, the local markets of the Prefectures of Chania and Heraklion due to the driving distance between them.

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