Hellenic Competition Commission

 

Leniency Programme

What is the Leniency Programme?

It is the legal framework providing for a favourable treatment (which may be rewarded with a full immunity from fines) to undertakings and natural persons who cooperate with the Hellenic Competition Commission (“HCC”) in detecting and terminating cartels, in particular secret horizontal agreements which are prohibited under Article 1 of Law 3959/2011 or Article 1 of the Treaty for the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). 

What types of infringement does it cover?

The Leniency Programme refers to agreements which affect, directly or indirectly, prices, volumes, market shares or other relevant parameters of competition and/or indicatively agreements on production or sales quotas, market sharing, restrictions on imports or exports, bid rigging and collective boycott.

Who is entitled to submit a leniency application?

Undertakings or  natural persons involved in cartels. It is noted that applications from other individuals or undertakings not involved in a cartel are not accepted and are regarded by the HCC either as complaints, provided that the relevant requirements are met, or as general information.

What is the benefit for the applicant?

Full or partial immunity from fines is granted to the applicant, in the event that the contribution of the natural person or undertaking to the initiation of an investigation or to the detection and establishment of an infringement is sufficient to meet the relevant evidential threshold, provided that certain additional conditions are met. For natural persons, in particular, who are qualified for leniency under the Leniency Programme, the granting of full immunity from fines also absolves them from criminal liability, while, in the event of a fine reduction, it is considered as a mitigating circumstance, resulting in the imposition of a reduced sanction pursuant to Article 83 of the Penal Code.

What are the main criteria for granting full or partial immunity from fines?

The timing of the application, the degree to which the leniency application enhances the ability of the HCC to establish an infringement, the gravity and completeness of the evidence and information submitted by the undertaking or the natural person, which must represent, in any case, significant added value to the evidence already in the HCC’s possession. 

What does significant added value mean?

It means that the evidence provided should strengthen the HCC’s ability to establish an infringement.

What are the types of leniency?

  • Immunity from fines – Type 1A: Full immunity from fines shall be granted to the applicant who is the first to submit evidence enabling the HCC to carry out a targeted inspection in connection with an alleged cartel, as long as the HCC did not already possess, at the time of the application, sufficient evidence which would allow the initiation of the investigation with regard to the alleged cartel.
  • Immunity from fines – Type 1B: Alternatively, full immunity from fines shall be granted to the applicant who is the first to submit evidence which allows the HCC to establish an infringement of Article 1 Law 3959/2011 and/or Article 101 TFEU, in case that, at the time of the submission, the evidence already in the possession of the HCC was not sufficient in this respect.
  • Reduction of fines – Type 2: In case the requirements for granting immunity from fines are not met, a reduction from the fine that would otherwise have been imposed may be granted to the applicant who provides the HCC with evidence of the alleged cartel, representing significant added value with respect to the evidence already in the HCC's possession.

What information must the application include in order to be considered by the HCC?

Applicants, undertakings or natural persons, in addition to their full identification details, must fill in the application form for leniency with a detailed description of the alleged cartel conduct, its aims, the affected products or services, the affected geographical territory as well as its duration and  its function and background over the past years. Most importantly, they must provide factual evidence in their possession or under their control of the existence and operation of the cartel.

Which applications for fine reduction will be rejected?

Applications from undertakings that coerced others to participate in the cartel are excluded. It should be noted that this exception does not apply to natural persons who have acted on behalf of the first undertaking.

Is the HCC under an obligation to assess a leniency application?

Yes. The HCC is required to assess the application and decide whether the legal requirements for granting full immunity or reduction of fines are met. However, the submission of an application does not entail any obligation on the HCC’s part to immediately examine the case regarding the alleged infringement.

Is it possible for the applicant to submit an oral statement?

Upon request by the applicant, the HCC may allow an oral statement, including the applicant’s identification details, the description of the cartel and all the other information provided for in paragraph 8 of the HCC Decision No. 526/VI/2011. Access to any records of the oral statements in question is not granted before the serving of the Statement of Objections (SO) to the parties, whereas this right is exercised by reviewing the records at the premises of the HCC. Apart from these specific rules on access, the Rules of Internal Procedure and Management of the HCC continue to apply. 

What is the marker system provided for under the new Leniency Programme?

The applicant may apply for a “marker”. The granting of a marker protects the applicant’s place in the queue for a given period of time, thus allowing him to gather, within that period, the information and evidence necessary in order to meet the relevant evidential threshold for immunity.

Can the applicant investigate the possible application of the Leniency Programme before proceeding to a formal application?

The undertaking or natural person that intends to apply for leniency has the right, before submitting its application and without it being necessary to provide any identification data at this stage (i.e. anonymously), to request guidance from the HCC as to the possible application of the Leniency Programme in the specific case by presenting, on a hypothetical basis, the evidence at its disposal.

The above explanatory note under the form of “questions and answers” has as its sole purpose to encourage the general public’s access to information and does not replace the official text to which it refers, which is the only legally binding text.

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