Slovenian Competition protection Agency imposes fines over € 3 million in a case of collusion/bid rigging in tenders on public transport

On 19. December 2018 the Agency issued a misdemeanor decision regarding a bid-rigging cartel agreement that has occurred within the public tender procedure for the public passenger transport services. The Agency has imposed a fine with a total amount of  EUR 3.068.076 on  five bus transport operators participating in a cartel within a public tender; in so doing, three legal persons and their responsible persons have been fined under a leniency program.

 

In case of breach of the prohibition of restrictive agreements, as defined in Slovenian Competition Act, a fine of up to 10 % of the company’s annual turnover in the preceding business year is imposed. In assessing the fine of a legal person, the Agency took into account the gravity and duration of the infringement and the existence of the mitigating and aggravating circumstances. The infringement, i.e. the violation of the ban on restrictive agreements, is one of the most serious infringements of the competition rules, as it is a cartel. In the case of the gravity of the offence, the Agency took into account the nature of the infringement, the economic strength of undertakings in question, the geographical scope of the infringement, the impact on the market and the duration of the infringement.

 

Pursuant to Article 12 of the Decree on the procedure for the dismissal and reduction of the fine for the perpetrators involved in the cartel (hereinafter: Decree), legal entities Arriva Styria, Arriva Dolenjska in Primorje and Veolia Ljubljana (the latest had been absorbed to Arriva Dolenjska in Primorska), filed an application for the dismissal of a fine under a leniency program. Above mentioned legal entities and their responsible persons have cooperated with the Agency in administrative and minor offence proceedings, provide it with further evidence of the cartel and fulfil all the conditions laid down in the first paragraph of Article 76 of ZPOmK-1 and the Regulation. Therefore, immunity for a total fine of EUR 935.131 has been granted by the Agency.

 

It is the first case of granting the immunity of a fine under the leniency program in the Republic of Slovenia. The Agency may grant immunity or reduction of fines for those legal persons and their responsible persons, who made an application under the leniency programme and fulfilled all the conditions laid down in Slovenian Competition Act and the Decree.  The spirit of the leniency programme is to motivate the cartel participants to cooperate with the Agency in the detection of practices, which, as indicated above, constitute one of the most serious forms of restriction of competition. The leniency programme rewards an offender/perpetrator who first gives access to information and therefore represents one of the most important means of uncovering cartels.

 

Agency’s administrative decision No 306-79/2010 of 29 March 2017, finding the infringement in question, has already been final. The Administrative Court of the Republic of Slovenia has fully upheld the Agency’s findings in the decision by its judgment I U 930/2017 from 19 June 2018.

 

Legal persons and their responsible persons to whom the Agency has imposed a fine, have announced the submission of requests for judicial redress against the offence decision.  District Court in Ljubljana is still to assess this issue; therefore, the decision on the offence is not yet final.

 

 

 

 

 

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