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CARTELS: AMO SR decided on fines for two undertakings providing drinking

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On 11 April 2018 the Antimonopoly Office of the Slovak Republic, the Division of Cartels, (hereafter "the Office") issued a decision in the matter of an agreement based on the coordination of the activities of two undertakings in the field of providing drinking regime, particularly by supplying water, gallons and dispensers, including related services, by which it imposed fines in the total amount of EUR 281 218.
The Office´s findings showed that between 2013 and 2014 two undertakings coordinated their activities in the given field of ​​providing drinking regime in the territory of the Slovak Republic, namely through the scheme of anticompetitive practices consisting of a price-fixing agreement, market sharing and the coordination of their behaviour in tender.

Particular infringements could be evaluated as separate agreements or concerted practices restricting competition if assessed separately. However, it was clear from the circumstances of the case that the particular infringements were part of the overall plan of the undertakings in the field of ​​providing drinking regime and were interlinked with one aim which was to eliminate competition between undertakings in the field concerned.
The Office in connection to the evaluation of the suspicion that there was an agreement restricting competition concluded between the undertakings contrary to the Article 4 of the Act on Protection of Competition and the Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, which the Office had acquired during its own investigation, it carried out inspections at the premises of the undertakings concerned. Subsequently, in the course of the investigation and the administrative proceedings, the Office obtained documentation, especially e-mail communication of the undertakings confirming the Office´s conclusions about the existence of the agreement based on the coordination of their activities in the field of providing drinking regime and it evaluated the conduct of the undertakings as the agreement restricting competition according to the Article 4 of the Act on Protection of Competition effective until 30 June 2014 and the Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.
The above-mentioned anticompetitive conduct of the undertakings is classified as the so-called hard-core cartel - target agreement and by its own nature it represents the form of cooperation that shows the sufficient degree of harmfulness to competition. At the same time, in the practice of competition authorities, it is one of the hardest hit violations of law.
The Office´s decision is not valid. Since this is the first-instance decision against which the parties may lodge an appeal, at this stage the Office does not provide more details on the decision.