The Romanian Competition Council ("RCC") recently opened a sector inquiry into the cement production and trading market in Romania in order to assess the structure and functioning of the market as well as to identify potential competition concerns.

In its recent press release, the RCC noted that the cement production and trading market ranks last, in terms of competitive pressure, amongst the 21 industries assessed in the RCC’s Report on Competition Developments in Key Sectors (based on the Aggregate Index of Competitive Pressure (AICP) in the period 2013-2015).

According to applicable law, the RCC can carry out ex-officio sector inquiries when the rigidity of prices or other circumstances indicate a potential restriction or distortion of competition on the market. The European Commission and other competition authorities also rely on sector inquiries which are not directly aimed at identifying infringements of the applicable law.

As part of the inquiry, the RCC is permitted to request information and documents from all entities active on the cement market and has already invited such entities to have an active and open dialog with the RCC about the competition related issues they face. This may also act as an incentive for competition whistle-blowers to report any perceived market irregularities directly to the RCC.

Depending on the findings of the sector inquiry, the RCC can (i) issue recommendations for market and competition development if irregularities are identified or (ii) open investigations if breaches of competition law are identified.

Companies active in the cement industry should take a closer look at their practices and interactions on the market and assess compliance with competition laws. This sector inquiry should not be taken lightly as, in the past, the RCC issued some of its biggest fines in this very sector.