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AMO SR imposed a fine in total amount of 4,28 mil. EUR on five IT distributors for participation in a cartel

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On 2 June 2014 the Antimonopoly Office of the Slovak Republic, Division of Cartels issued a decision by which it imposed a fine totalling 4,28 mil. EUR on five undertakings acting in the market of distribution of IT technologies and complementary products in the territory of the Slovak Republic for concluding a cartel agreement.

Cartel was grounded in an agreement on introduction of a handling fee in the amount of 1 EUR which was to be charged on each invoice issued to the customers for delivery of goods. The Office´s findings show that the cartel agreement was concluded in February 2013 and the undertakings started to charge this fee the following month, gradually within one week. It was also proved that the undertakings also agreed on the date of introduction of handling fee which was set differently for each undertaking with the aim not to raise suspicion that the cartel was concluded. This fact also confirms that the undertakings were aware of the illegality of their conduct which they strived to conceal. One of the parties to the proceedings did not apply the agreement in practice and it did not charge the handling fee. In its decision the Office has assessed this fact as mitigating circumstance, which led to the reduction of a fine for this undertaking.

Shortly after the introduction of the handling fee the Office carried out an inspection at the premises of all undertakings, after which most of the participants to the agreement no longer charged the handling fee. During these inspections the Office obtained decisive evidence in the form of communication among representatives of the undertakings concerned, as well as the internal corporate communication. After the inspection one of the parties to the proceedings filed an action for the illegality of the inspection. The Supreme Court of the Slovak Republic principally dismissed this action and thus it upheld the fact that the Office acquired the incriminating evidence legally. Quick and successful intervention of the Antimonopoly Office of SR was enabled thanks to early action by the public comprising exact information on possible cartel agreement.

Decision of the Antimonopoly Office of SR is not valid.

Since it is a first-instance decision which could be appealed by the party to the proceedings, at this stage the Office does not publish any further details on the decision in question.