Poland: UOKiK issues two decisions concerning agreements limiting competition between truck dealers
The two decisions issued concern collusion between DAF car dealers. In the first decision, the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection stated the conclusion of an agreement limiting competition between five companies: DBK from Olsztyn, ESA Trucks Polska from Komorniki (Wielkopolskie Voivodeship), TB Truck & Trailer Serwis from Wolica (Mazowieckie Voivodeship), Van Tilburg-Bastianen Groep z Bredy w Holandii i WTC z Długołęki (Dolnośląskie Voivodeship).
The companies have divided the market among themselves. Together, they agreed that each would sell DAF trucks in a specific area and not compete for customers in other parts of Poland. They also exchanged pricing information. In the case of four companies (excluding ESA Trucks Poland), the arrangements also concerned the exchange of information on bids submitted in tenders.
"As a result of the conspiracy, a potential buyer of the trucks could only purchase them from a particular seller at a price specified by the seller. They could not buy the vehicle cheaper in another part of Poland. Given the importance of the road transport industry in Poland, the collusion could have had negative consequences for the entire economy," says UOKiK President Tomasz Chróstny.
The agreement lasted at least 7 years - from February 2011 to March 2018. Initially, DBK and WTC together with ESA Trucks Poland divided the market for DAF truck sales. In 2016, TB Truck & Trailer Serwis joined the agreement with the consent and knowledge of the controlling Dutch company Van Tilburg-Bastianen Groep.
Evidence collected during the proceedings, including e-mails, shows that the entrepreneurs acted with full knowledge and unambiguous intention not to compete with each other.
For example, if a potential buyer from an area assigned to DBK wanted to buy a truck from ESA, they were discouraged from doing so. They were presented with an inflated price in ESA so that they would take advantage of the offer of a seller from their region.
Cartel participants constantly monitored each other's behaviour and contacted each other when it was suspected that one of them was violating the arrangements.
UOKiK President Tomasz Chróstny imposed penalties on entrepreneurs in a total amount of over PLN 118 million. The penalties for each entity were as follows:
DBK - PLN 45,289,797.52;
WTC - PLN 24,310,342.89;
ESA Trucks Polska - PLN 40,498,200.00;
TB Truck & Trailer Service - PLN 5,946,417.83;
Van Tilburg-Bastianen Groep - PLN 2,077,404.20.
The fines imposed on TB Truck & Trailer Service and Van Tilburg-Bastianen Groep were reduced. They took advantage of the leniency programme.
They admitted to making prohibited arrangements, fully cooperated with the President of the Office in the course of the proceedings, and handed over important evidence in the case, including arrangements related to actions taken inside TB Truck & Trailer Serwis and between its managers.
Therefore, the sanctions against them were reduced by 50 per cent.
It is worth pointing out that the entrepreneurs could not receive a full exemption from the penalty because, at the time of submission of the leniency application, the President of the Office had already had sufficient evidence to initiate antitrust proceedings. In addition, both companies exercised their option to voluntarily submit to their penalties, which reduced the sanctions by an additional 10 per cent.
The investigation also revealed that management took an active role in the agreement by, among other things, disciplining their salespeople to stick to the arrangement, even under the threat of being fired or having their pay taken away. Therefore, the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection imposed sanctions on eight managers in a total amount of nearly PLN 1.7 million.
Executives at TB Truck & Trailer Serwis and Van Tilburg-Bastianen Groep were included in the former's leniency application and their fines were reduced by 50 per cent.
In addition, a TB Truck & Trailer Service representative voluntarily submitted to the penalty and received another reduction - by 10 per cent.
According to the operative part of the decision, the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection imposed:
a fine in the amount of PLN 168 000.00 on Jacek Bezlapowicz
a fine in the amount of PLN 13,125.00 on Beata Dębska
A fine in the amount of PLN 92,500.00 on Marcus Koenders
A fine in the amount of PLN 495,000.00 on Andrzej Luniak
A fine in the amount of PLN 35,000.00 on Marek Ostojak
A fine in the amount of PLN 367,500.00 on Ireneusz Sobieski
A fine in the amount of PLN 495,000.00 on Jarosław Szymkowiak
A fine in the amount of PLN 15,750.00 on Antona Verhoevena
The second decision issued also relates to unauthorised arrangements between DAF truck dealers. In this case, three companies are involved: Wanicki Company from Mogilany, DBK from Olsztyn and WTC from Długołęka.
"The investigation proved that the entrepreneurs divided the market among themselves. They jointly agreed that each of them would participate in public tenders only in a certain territory and would not submit bids in the area assigned to another entrepreneur," says UOKiK President Tomasz Chróstny.
The total penalties imposed on the participants in the conspiracy amounted to over PLN 2.65 million. Individual entrepreneurs received the following sanctions:
DBK - PLN 1,293,994.21
WTC - PLN 709,070.06
Wanicki Company - 652,766.02 - the amount was reduced by 10% because the entrepreneur voluntarily submitted to the penalty
"Using the two decisions involving truck dealers as examples, you can see how harmful market-sharing agreements are. As a result of the actions of dishonest entrepreneurs, potential customers lose the opportunity to buy products of a given brand from selected sellers or receive offers with higher prices.
"The unfair competition resulted in worse conditions for the purchase of DAF trucks, which was felt by transport companies in Poland using these vehicles in their fleets. The decisions issued will make it easier for the victims of these practices to pursue compensation claims in court ," says UOKiK President Tomasz Chróstny. ■