At the beginning of August 2011 the Competition Protection Commission completed an inquiry into the Bulgarian gasoline and diesel sectors. The inquiry covered the period from 2009 to the present. The investigation focused on commercial relationships between participants in the market for the production, import and sale of gasoline and diesel, at both wholesale and retail levels. The inquiry also aimed to identify legal and administrative barriers to market entry which arose under the Bulgarian legal framework.

The commission established that parallel pricing behaviour by four participants in the national wholesale markets for gasoline and diesel had been taking place since 2009. However, the commission noted that the parallel pricing might not be an indication of concerted practice if it was not the result of tacit collusion between the respective companies. Furthermore, the commission found that certain provisions in the agreements between the wholesale market leader and its commercial partners might have a retail price maintenance effect as well as a loyalty effect.

In light of these findings, the commission opened a new antitrust case to establish anti-competitive agreements or concerted practice between the four companies and for abuse of dominant position by the market leader on the wholesale market under the Competition Protection Act and the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

In view of the legal barriers in the relevant legal framework, the commission informed the minister of finance that certain measures were necessary in order to improve the competitive environment. In particular, the commission made recommendations for the improvement of the competitive environment in the sector. Among other things, the commission recommends that Bulgaria sign bilateral agreements with other EU member states pursuant to EU Directive 2008/118/EC and that it establish state-owned tax warehouses.

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]).