Thursday, 14 December 2023

Press Release - Fines totaling €105,772.66 imposed on undertakings active in the supply of telecommunication equipment and internet teleconferencing

Subject: Fines totaling €105,772.66 imposed on undertakings active in the supply of telecommunication equipment and internet teleconferencing (through VoIP and SIP) following decision adopted under the Settlement Procedure (SP). 

The Hellenic Competition Commission (HCC), by its unanimous Decision no 834/2023 adopted in plenary, in the context of the simplified Settlement Procedure as provided for in Article 29A of Greek competition act - Law 3959/2011 and according to its Decision no 790/2022, accepted the settlement proposals submitted by the Chinese company : “厦门亿联网络技术股份有限公司” under the English name “YEALINK NETWORK TECHNOLOGY Co. Ltd” and Greek company “Allwan - Epikoinonies Dedomenon Ltd.”, following the relevant Statement of Objections, and imposed reduced fines totaling €105,772.66 for the infringement established, according to the grounds of the Decision, of Article 1 of Law 3959/2011 and 101 TFEU.

The above undertakings involved in the infringement, for which sufficient evidence was collected to establish an infringement of Article 1 of Law 3959/2011 and 101 TFEU in the context of a vertical agreement, expressed in writing their interest in the application of the Settlement Procedure and submitted a relevant request, in accordance with para. 16 of HCC Decision No. 704/2020 on the Settlement Procedure.

According to the grounds of the Decision, the evidence available shows that the above undertakings infringed, by Articles 1 of Law 3959/2011 and 101 TFEU and that such vertical agreements constitute restrictions of competition by object,. Yealink has engaged in the practice of setting minimum advertised prices (MAP), on Internet sales, in the context of a selective distribution network in the telecommunications equipment market (communication, via VoIP and SIP, telephone devices, accessories, spare parts, etc.) through its commercial policy, through supervision and compliance actions to retailers, in the Greek territory. Allwan, the distributor of the above equipment, participated supportively, for the purpose of implementing the specific policy of determining minimum advertised prices on the internet, which was imposed by Yealink. Setting resale prices and/or minimum advertised prices is by object a restriction of competition. It is considered by its nature to be capable of having a negative impact on the relevant market. As it harms competition between resellers by eliminating price intra-brand competition, while acting as a disincentive to lower selling prices for the product. The infringement lasted: (a) in relation to Yealink, from 05.03.2015 to 11.06.2021 and (b) in relation to Allwan, from 01.09.2017 to 11.06.2021. Finally, from the available evidence, Yealink also engaged in a practice of prohibiting active and passive sales within a selective distribution network, in the context of a vertical agreement, in violation of Articles 1(1) of Law 3959/2011 and 101(1) TFEU, lasted from 05.03.2015 to 31.12.2021.

It is noted that for the case in hand, that the agreement to determine minimum advertised prices on the internet, as well as the related agreement prohibiting active and passive sales (which was not implemented in practice) , are applied within the Greek territory – and, by extension, within the EU despite the fact that the main involved company, Yealink is based outside the EU and specifically in China, and therefore HCC has jurisdiction.

The Grand Chamber of the HCC, by virtue of para. 35 of its Decision no. 790/2020, accepted the Settlement Proposals submitted by the above undertakings, according to the reasoning of the Statement of Objections, and decided as follows:

Finds that the companies “YEALINK NETWORK TECHNOLOGY Co. Ltd” and “Allwan - Epikoinonies Dedomenon Ltd.”,infringed Articles 1 of Law 3959/2011 and 101 TFEU due to their participation in prohibited vertical agreements through the practices outlined in the Statement of Objections, in the context of the Settlement Procedure.

Orders the above undertakings to cease, if they have not already done so, and refrain in the future from the infringements of Articles 1 of Law 3959/2011 and 101 TFEU found.

Imposes a fine amounting to €83,002.59 on “YEALINK NETWORK TECHNOLOGY Co. Ltd” and a fine amounting to €22,770.07 on “Allwan - Epikoinonies Dedomenon Ltd.” . The total amount of the fines imposed on the two (2) settling parties is €105,772.66 for committing the established infringements of Articles 1 of Law 3959/2011 and 101 TFEU.

Finally, it is noted that this is the first case of extraterritorial  application of Greek and EU competition law by the Hellenic Competition Commission and also the first time, here in the context of a settlement procedure under Article 29A of Law 3959/2011, that fines were imposed to both suppliers and retailers participating to a vertical restriction that falls under the scope of the prohibition under Article 1 of Law 3959/2011 and/or Article 101 TFEU .

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