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Slovakia: Council of AMO SR fines cartel in sale of Volkswagen vehicles

Christian Fernsby |
Council of the Antimonopoly Office of the Slovak Republic changed the first-instance decision of the Antimonopoly Office of the Slovak Republic, the Division of Cartels, in the part concerning the imposed fine.

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Topics: SLOVAKIA    VOLKSWAGEN   

It imposed fines totalling EUR 6 729 537,80 on the participants to the proceedings.

Following the successful application of leniency programme, the Council of the Office did not impose a fine on two participants to the proceedings and it reduced fines on the other two. For the settlement process of one participant, the Council of the Office also reduced the fine.

On one participant to the proceedings, the Council of the Office imposed a ban on the participation in public procurement for a period of three years after a final decision comes into force.

In the part of the finding of facts and legal assessment, the Council of the Office upheld the Office's first-instance decision, in which it proved a cartel agreement between 18 undertakings. The aim of the cartel agreement was to restrict competition in the market of the sale of new Volkswagen passenger and commercial motor vehicles in the territory of the Slovak Republic.

The participating sellers agreed on the amount of maximum discounts provided for individual types of Volkswagen vehicles and divided the territory of the Slovak Republic according to the regions, in which they have their premises.

Based on the agreement, they should provide customers from another region with a discount 1 % lower than a seller in their region would offer them. The aim was also to eliminate competition between sellers, as well as to maintain a certain range of customers and also level of prices.

The subject-matter of the division of customers was a rule that, if sellers knew that a customer already "had belonged" to another seller, i. e. that the customer had already previously bought vehicles from another seller within Volkswagen sales network, they provided the customer with an offer that was less advantageous in order to motivate the customer to buy a vehicle from "his/her" seller, respectively the customer was directly instructed to buy the car from a particular seller.

The participants to the agreement also divided customers who purchased vehicles through public procurements, public tenders or other similar competitions. In this connection they were to coordinate their participation and the procedure for submitting bids in the public procurement process, in public tenders or in similar competitions concerning the sale of Volkswagen passenger and light commercial vehicles in the territory of the Slovak Republic.

For the purposes of implementing the agreement, the participants exchanged sensitive business information. In relation to selected participants in the agreement, the Office also proved the implementiation of this part of the practice, for which, after taking into account the relevant provisions of the Article 38h of the Act on Protection of Competition, on one of them the above-mentioned ban on participation in public procurement for a period of three years was imposed.

The cartel which was proved and which lasted for several years, with the aim to restrict competition, by its type belongs to the most serious infringements of the competition rules. The Council of the Office´s decision came into force on 1 June 2020.


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