Hellenic Competition Commission

Sector inquiry into basic consumer goods

Sector inquiry into production, distribution and marketing of basic consumer goods and in particular food products as well as cleaning and personal hygiene products - Launch of public consultation

The Hellenic Competition Commission (HCC) within its relevant competences and aiming to thoroughly analyse and investigate the conditions of competition prevailing in critical sectors of the economy, conducted a sector inquiry into production, distribution and marketing of basic consumer goods and in particular food products, as well as cleaning and personal hygiene products.

The sector inquiry focused on eleven (11) product categories, namely: (1) cured meat products, (2) soft drinks - ready-made tea - energy drinks - sodas, (3) powdered laundry detergents, (4) yogurt and yogurt desserts, (5) cereals for breakfast, (6) pasta, (7) coffee, (8) legumes, (9) feta cheese, (10) toilet paper and (11) sliced bread.

In particular, the following were examined:

  • the structure of the supermarket supply chain for specific product categories and the regulatory framework governing its operation;
  • the emerging changes with the development of e-commerce and the advent of new technologies;
  • specific discount practices;
  • category management;
  • private labels;
  • buying alliances for specific basic consumer products and in particular food products;
  • as well as the bargaining power of suppliers and supermarkets.

In September 2019, the present sector inquiry was prioritized. The Interim Report is based on the data available collected in 2014 - 2015, and supplemented with data from recent studies and selective data from questionnaires in early 2020. The Interim Report presents useful conclusions and proposes solutions, which will serve as a springboard for the Final Report and possibly future updates of the sector inquiry, in the light of subsequent market developments.

Based on the findings of the Interim Report, the HCC launches this public consultation inviting interested parties to submit comments.

Interested parties can either take part at the teleconference organised for this purpose by the HCC between 17-31 May 2020 and/or submit written comments at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

The Hellenic Competition Commission has completed the Interim Report of its sector inquiry, which was published on April 13, 2020.  You can access the executive summary here.  

 

Sector Inquiry into basic consumer goods

 

 

 

Latest Updates

  • 14 April 2020 - Publication of Interim Report of Sector Inquiry into Basic consumer goods, read more here.
  • 07 April 2020 - Announcement of the launch of a public consultation: publication of an invitation to any interested party to submit written observations and comments, as well as to express interest in participating in a teleconference with officials of the Hellenic Competition Commission, read more here "Launch of public consultation of sector inquiry into basic consumer goods".
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Questions & Answers

- Scope and Aims of the Sector Inquiry

The publication of the Interim Report of the sector inquiry into production, distribution and marketing of basic consumer goods is a very important development and reference point in an attempt to map the market, which started by the HCC in 2011, following relevant press coverage about rising and varying prices of basic consumer goods prices at all levels of the market.

The HCC, according to article 40 of Law 3959/2011, in 2012 decided to launch a sector inquiry into production, distribution and marketing of basic consumer goods and in particular food items (dairy, butter, pasta, cereals and coffee), as well as cleaning and personal hygiene items (personal and oral hygiene items, home cleaning products). As part of the sector inquiry, the HCC sent a series of questionnaires to supermarket chains and suppliers.

In September 2019, the present market study was prioritized. The Interim Report is based on the data collected in 2014 - 2015, and supplemented with data from recent studies and selective data from questionnaires in the late months of 2019 and early months of 2020. The Interim Report presents useful conclusions and proposes solutions, which are the subject of this public consultation and a useful starting point for the Final Report in the next 4 months.

In addition, the publication of the Interim Report for consultation with market participants is most necessary, at a time when the supermarket industry is undergoing significant changes due to e-commerce and new technologies and the seismic changes brought by COVID-19.

More about the HCC initiatives and the launch of other sector inquiries at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has brought about significant changes in the habits of consumers, read more here..

Following the publication of the Interim Report and after the completion and processing of the data from the public consultation, the Final Report will be published in 4 months.

More about the timeframe and future actions here.

The aim of this sector inquiry is to examine potential competition problems in the production, distribution and marketing of basic consumer goods:

In particular, the following were examined:

  • the structure of the supermarket supply chain for specific product categories and the regulatory framework governing its operation;
  • the emerging changes with the development of e-commerce and the advent of new technologies;
  • specific discount practices;
  • category management;
  • private labels;
  • buying alliances for specific basic consumer products and in particular food products;
  • as well as the (superior) bargaining power of suppliers and supermarkets.

The sector inquiry focused on eleven (11) product categories, namely: (1) cured meat products, (2) soft drinks - ready-made tea - energy drinks - sodas, (3) powdered laundry detergents, (4) yogurt and yogurt desserts, (5) cereals for breakfast, (6) pasta, (7) coffee, (8) legumes, (9) feta cheese, (10) toilet paper and (11) sliced bread.

It examined problems identified in the various stages of the supply chain in a bid to propose actions that will improve its effectiveness for the benefit of the final consumer.

This sector inquiry examines the entire supply chain of consumer goods. In order to assess the overall economic impact of the retail sector, it takes into account the value chain and its links to other sectors of economic activity. The retail sector value chain includes sectors that supply products and services, as well as distribution sectors of products for final consumption.

 

These categories comprise products characterized by relative homogeneity, may present certain structural characteristics in the relevant supply market (possible dominant position or oligopoly or competition), impact the Consumer Price Index and differ in terms of penetration of private label products.

The following table provides a summary of the possible problems and the possible solutions/ reaction by the HCC and market players.

table at question 5

 

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Following the key findings and considerations regarding competition at various levels of the value chain, solutions are proposed. These solutions aim not only to protect consumer surplus in the short term by boosting horizontal competition, but also indirectly increase consumer surplus and economic efficiency in the medium term through the development of innovation, competitiveness and resilience of the supply chain. In the long run, the suggested solutions also aim at strengthening vertical competition in the affected value chains. The suggested solutions are:

1. Adoption of soft law instruments through a hybrid approach to cases of significant bargaining power. Such non-binding legislation can be enacted, for example, through a Code of Conduct or a Good Practice Guide between the parties involved, with respect to the identified problematic practices, which may affect end consumers and/or suppliers. The development and adoption of such best practices can address more effectively and in accordance with the rules of fair competition external costs and supply side problems, especially under the current market conditions created by COVID-19;

2. Possible legislative changes, e.g. amendment to the Rules for the Distribution of Products and the Provision of Services and;

3. Possible introduction of new institutions, such as that of an Ombudsman, appointed by the HCC, which will systematically monitor those markets where significant power of suppliers or buyers is observed. Such new institutions can act as a hub for communication and information on relevant issues affecting the industry and will contribute in general to the audit work of the HCC. With respect to the latter proposal, in the current difficult and extraordinary conditions facing the country due to the COVID -19 pandemic, appointing an Ombudsman, with such competences will aid the HCC with the provision of information about the changing market situation and the needs of companies in these special economic and social conditions. Such information will allow the HCC to provide guidelines for practices that, despite the possibility of reducing competition, may be necessary to organise the security of procurement and distribution networks, have a positive effect on economic efficiency and resilience of the supply and as such possibly counterweight any anti-competitive effects.

- Public Consultation

You can assist HCC’s work by providing comments to the Interim Report. You can participate in the teleconference organized by the HCC for the supermarket industry and/or submit written comments.

  • Participation in the teleconference

If you would like to participate in the teleconference please email to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. until June 1, 2020. Please indicate the name of the institution or company you are representing. The teleconference will take place between 11-15 June 2020. An invitation with details for the exact date and time of the teleconference, as well as for the way of communication, will be sent to the participants in due course.

  • Written Submissions

You are also invited to submit written comments until June 1, 2020. The written submissions will be published on the market study’s dedicated website with reference to the name of the institution or company submitting them. Submissions on a personal capacity not representing a specific institution or company will be published anonymously, unless the author otherwise specifies.

If you wish your submission or any part of it to be treated as confidential, please make a relevant statement when submitting it.

Participation in the consultation is open to anyone who can provide useful information and comments on any or all of the issues that are the subject of this market study. We will greatly appreciate the participation of (amongst others):

  • retailers (brick and mortar and e-commerce)
  • companies active at previous stages of the supply chain (producers, importers, wholesalers)
  • associations and unions
  • business consultants, law firms, economists
  • academics and researchers
  • consumer associations or individual consumers

 

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Procedural matters

The HCC, with the aim of protecting the safety and health of workers and the collaborating citizens, as well as ensuring the smooth operation of the Services and ensuring the public purposes it performs and serves, with its decision to be published in Government Gazette, stipulates the following for the period from Tuesday, 20/03/2020 until Thursday, 30/04/2020:

HCC offices will be staffed with security personnel, while most of the staff will work remotely.

Submission of documents in person or by mail will no longer be possible. Citizens & Businesses are required to use only the following e-mail addresses:

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for submitting documents to the HCC,

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for submitting notices of concentrations,

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for filing complaints,

or through the Hellenic Competition Commission's website form for submitting general questions or information requests.

Communication with the Directorate-General can be possible either by e-mail from the list of HCC staff, or by the following telephone numbers:

  • Protocol: +30 210 - 8809139 or +30 210-8809331
  • Directorate of Administrative & Financial Support: +30 210 - 8809209
  • A' Operational Directorate: +30 210 - 8809236
  • B' Operational Directorate: +30 210 - 8809217
  • Directorate of Legal Services: +30 210 - 8809248
  • Commission
  • Office of the President, Vice President and Rapporteurs: +30 210 - 8809202
  • HCC's Secretariat: +30 210 - 8809215 or +30 210-8809212 (for issues of organization of hearings and issues of the Plenary Session of the Commission)
The HCC Plenary Session will hold scheduled meetings and conferences via a teleconference platform after user authentication.
The legally binding deadlines still apply to the work of the HCC and HCC will continue to carry out its work, review its cases (including concentrations) and make decisions - through the immediate adjustment of its staff to teleworking. At the same time, it will continue to monitor the schedules, providing extentions where permitted. Any amendment shall be notified to the parties concerned and posted publicly on the HCC website.

The HCC will return with newer relevant announcements if required by the circumstances.

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Sector Inquiry's Timeframe

  • 30.03.2020 - Completion of the Interim Report
  • 07.03.2020Publication of the Executive Summary of the Interim Report
  • 13.04.2020 - Publication of the full text of the Interim Report. Launch of public consultation: publication of an invitation to any interested party to submit written observations and comments, as well as to express interest in participating in the teleconference with officials of the HCC
  • 01.06.2020 - Last day of the deadline for expression of interest for participation in the teleconference
  • 01.06.2020 - Deadline for submission of written comments and comments
  • 11-15.06.2020 - Teleconference (indicative dates – tbc)
  • 31.07.2020 - Publication of Final Report
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Communication with the sector inquiry team

Communication with the sector inquiry team into basic consumer goods

For any question you want to ask about the sector inquiry and for more information, contact us by the following email address Supermarkets2020@epant.gr.

It is reminded that based on article 41 par. 2 of law 3959/2011, as in force, without prejudice to the provision of article 37 paragraph 2 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the employees HCC's Directorate-General for Competition are obliged to keep confidentiality regarding confidentially details of companies, business associations or other natural or legal persons, which they receive on the occasion of their service (such as sales, prices, suppliers, trade policies, etc.). Similar provisions are provided by Treatment of confidential information

AnyPersonal Data sent to HCC will be used exclusively for the promotion, support and implementation of the HCC's responsibilities. Each time HCC collects and uses Personal Data, it does so in the context of the implementation of the main public mission and its purposes, that is, to be able to answer your questions and communicate with you about anything else related to HCC's activities.
HCC will not disclose to any third party and will not use your Personal Data in cooperation with it, unless you have clear consent. Read more here.

 
 
 
 
 

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