On December 23 2011 the Competition Protection Commission announced that a statement of objection had been submitted to three Bulgarian travel agencies – Hornit OOD, Bulgarian VIP Travel OOD and Astral Holidays AD – for infringement of cartel prohibition under Article 15, Paragraph 1 of the Competition Protection Act. The three companies are accused of having manipulated the public procurement procedure for the provision of airplane tickets for business trips within Bulgaria and abroad, which was opened by the minister of finance, in his capacity as head of the Central Authority for Public Procurement, in September 2010. The statement of objection was submitted as part of an investigation launched by the commission upon the direction of the minister of finance.

According to the commission's preliminary findings, the three travel agencies had discussed among themselves both the total amount of their offers and the prices underlying those amounts in advance. The commission regards this behaviour as coordination of their price policies within the public procurement procedure, which could affect the final assessment of the offers. The commission has taken the position that the travel agencies thus effectively eliminated competition between themselves.

At this stage the parties have 45 days to submit objections and further evidence in their favour, as well as to be heard by the commission in an open hearing session. Afterwards, the commission will issue its final decision on the case.

For further information on this topic please contact Ilko Stoyanov at Advokatsko Druzhestvo Andreev Stoyanov & Tsekova in cooperation with Schönherr Rechtsanwälte GmbH by telephone (+359 2 933 1072), fax (+359 2 986 1105) or email ([email protected]).