Hellenic Competition Commission

 

Settlement Procedure

Settlement procedure for cartels cases

The Settlement Procedure (decision No. 704/2020) according to the provisions of Articles 25a and 14 par 2 of the Greek Competition Act, concerns cases where undertakings or associations of undertakings make a clear and unequivocal acknowledgement of participation and liability in relation to their participation in horizontal agreements (cartels) and the subsequent breach of competition law (Article 1 of the Greek Competition Act and/or Article 101 TFEU).  As a result, they can obtain a reduction of the imposed fine by 15%, provided that certain conditions are fulfilled. 

The Settlement Procedure, which is essentially modeled after the EU equivalent procedure, aims at simplifying and speeding up the handling of pending cases. It allows the HCC to achieve efficiencies through a streamlined administrative process, resulting in a relatively more expedited adoption of infringement decisions regarding Article 1 of the Greek Competition Act and/or Article 101 TFEU. In addition, the settlement procedure provides scope for a reduction in the number of appeals against the HCC’s decisions before administrative courts. In turn, this allows a better allocation of resources, in order to deal with more cases, thereby increasing the deterrence effect of the HCC’s enforcement action, while simultaneously increasing citizens’ awareness in the effective and timely punishment of undertakings infringing competition law. 

The key parameters of the Settlement Procedure are as follows: 

Requirements for settlement 

Undertakings or associations of undertakings must unequivocally acknowledge participation to an infringement   and accept their liability in relation to the infringement. In addition, the parties must confirm that, in view of the above, they do not request full access to the file or an oral hearing before the HCC’s Board.  

When parties are convinced of the strength of the Commission's case in view of the evidence gathered during the investigation and of their own internal audit, they may be ready to admit their participation in a cartel and accept their liability for it.

Suitability of cases

The HCC enjoys full discretion in determining whether a case is suitable for settlement, weighing a number of factors in that respect, inter alia: 

  • The number of businesses involved in the investigation and the number of business potentially and genuinely interested in settlement 
  • The number and nature of the alleged infringements 
  • Whether procedural efficiencies and resource savings can be achieved 
  • Any aggravating circumstances 

Commencement of settlement procedure

Settlement discussions may commence on the parties’ initiative at any stage of the investigation. However, procedural efficiencies are less likely to accrue if a statement of objections has been already addressed to the parties concerned.

Bilateral discussions between the parties and the HCC

Bilateral meetings aim at presenting each business considering settlement with the necessary information regarding the case, namely the material facts of the infringement and their legal assessment, the duration and gravity of the infringement, the liability of each undertaking, evidence pointing to violation of competition law, calculation of the fine to be imposed. 

Bilateral meetings are also an opportunity for each business to present its comments on the alleged infringement and its basic parameters (as outlined above).  

Does the settlement procedure imply negotiations? 

No. The HCC will not bargain about evidence or its objections or the finding of an infringement. However, each business will also be heard effectively in the framework of the settlement procedure and parties will therefore have the opportunity to influence the HCC’s objections through argument.

Submission of the settlement proposal

The official settlement proposal by each implicated business shall contain, as a minimum:

  • Acknowledgement of the parties’ participation and liability for the infringement
  • Acceptance of the maximum amount of the fine that may be imposed by the HCC
  • The parties’ confirmation that they have been informed of the HCC’s finding of an infringement and that they have been given the opportunity to make their views known to the authority;
  • The parties’ confirmation that, in view of the above, they waive their right to obtain full access to the HCC’s file or to be heard in an oral hearing
  • Waiver of the right to challenge HCC’s jurisdiction and the validity of the procedure followed.

Confidentiality of cartel settlement discussions and information: 

Submissions and other statements made by the settling parties in the course of settlement discussions are considered confidential and access to them is restricted. Moreover, they cannot be disclosed or used in the context of another judicial or administrative proceeding (incl. follow on damages actions). Penalties are envisaged for any breach of those access rules and of the ensuing confidentiality obligation by any party. 

Calculation of the reduced fine imposed with the HCCs decision

The reduction of the fine amounting to 15% due to settlement will be deducted from the fine that a company would normally have to pay according to the provisions of the current HCC's guidelines on fines.

Interplay of Leniency and Settlement procedures

The leniency policy and the use of settlements are not mutually exclusive – it is possible for a leniency applicant to settle a case and benefit from both leniency and settlement discounts. 

Calculation of fine when a company has also applied for the Leniency Programme

When applicable, the reduction of fine given under the settlements procedure will be cumulative with the reduction of fine under the leniency programme.

Interplay of Commitments and Settlement procedures 

Settlement procedure is wholly distinct from the Commitments procedure. In particular, settlement decisions establish the existence of an infringement (serious cartel infringement), setting out all the relevant parameters thereof, require the termination of the infringement and impose a corresponding fine. On the contrary, commitment decisions do not establish an infringement, nor do they impose a fine, but instead bring an alleged infringement (not pertaining to cartels) to an end, by imposing on companies the commitments offered to meet the HCC’s concerns. 

You can download the relevant decision from the attachments below.

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