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Council of the Office upheld decision on cartel agreements between undertakings in the market with meal and benefit vouchers

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The Council of the Antimonopoly Office of the Slovak Republic (hereafter “the Council of the Office”) upheld the first instance decision of the Antimonopoly Office of the Slovak Republic, the Division of Cartels, No. 2016/KH/1/1/004 dated 11 February 2016, by which it imposed fines for two cartel agreements concluded by five undertakings operating in the market of issuing, distributing and selling meal and benefit vouchers, including providing related services.
The Council of the Office upheld the conclusions of the first instance body that five undertakings, namely DOXX – Stravné lístky, spol. s r.o., Žilina; Edenred Slovakia, s.r.o., Bratislava; LE CHEQUE DEJEUNER, s.r.o.; SODEXO PASS SR, s.r.o., Bratislava and VAŠA Slovensko, s.r.o., Bratislava committed two anticompetitive conducts:
  • cartel agreement based on market allocation and
  • cartel agreement based on limitating maximum amount of meal vouchers accepted in retail chains.
The following fines imposed on undertakings were confirmed by the Council of the Office´s decision:
  • DOXX – Stravné lístky, spol. s r.o., Žilina – EUR 486 158,
  • Edenred Slovakia, s r. o., Bratislava – EUR 845 237,
  • LE CHEQUE DEJEUNER, s.r.o., Bratislava – EUR 1 127 401,
  • SODEXO PASS SR, s. r. o., Bratislava – EUR 20 307,
  • VAŠA Slovensko, s. r. o., Bratislava – EUR 503 248.
The Council of the Office´s decision came into force on 4 October 2017. Parties to the proceedings may require judicial review of the decision.
Pursuant to the Article 38 of the Act on the Protection of Competition effective since 18 April 2016, the undertakings were prohibited from participating in public procurement during the period of three years after the final decision comes into force.
The final decision is either Office´s decision against which the undertakings did not appeal or a decision against which it is not possible to appeal or a decision against which the undertakings appealed and the appeal was rejected or the proceedings before court was stopped.
Imposing a ban on participating in public procurement is obligatory part of decision on agreement restricting competition by the means of collusion in public procurement or similar competition. The standard length of the ban is 3 years. However, the Act provides for two exceptions – the Office does not impose the ban on a successful leniency applicant at all and on undertaking using the settlement institute it imposes a ban for 1 year. The time-limit spans from the so-called final decision.
Since, in this case, the time limit for bringing an action against the Office´s decision has been still flowing, it is not clear whether it is possible to consider this decision to be final for some of the parties to the proceedings.