Unilateral conduct

Unilateral conduct by non-dominant firms

Are there any rules applying to the unilateral conduct of non-dominant firms?

Closely modelled on article 102 of the TFEU, article 6 of Law No. 4054 is theoretically designed to apply to the unilateral conduct of dominant firms only. When unilateral conduct is in question, dominance in a market is a condition precedent to the application of the prohibition laid down in article 6. That said, the indications in practice show that the Board is increasingly and alarmingly inclined to assume that purely unilateral conduct of a non-dominant firm in a vertical supply relationship could be interpreted as giving rise to an infringement of article 4 of Law No. 4054, which deals with restrictive agreements. With a novel interpretation, by way of asserting that a vertical relationship entails an implied consent on the part of the buyer and that this allows article 4 enforcement against a ‘discriminatory practice of even a non-dominant undertaking’ or ‘refusal to deal of even a non-dominant undertaking’ under article 4, the Board has in the past attempted to condemn unilateral conduct that should not normally be prohibited as it is not engaged in by a dominant firm. Owing to this new and rather peculiar concept (that is, article 4 enforcement becoming a fallback to article 6 enforcement if the entity engaging in unilateral conduct is not dominant), certain unilateral conduct that can only be subject to article 6 (dominance provisions) enforcement, (ie, if the engaging entity were dominant) has been reviewed and enforced against under article 4 (restrictive agreement rules).

Recently, this has begun to allow a breach of article 6 (dominance) by article 4 (restrictive agreements) behaviour. There are several decisions where the Board warned non-dominant entities to refrain from imposing dissimilar trade conditions to its distributors or did not allow a non-dominant entity to unilaterally adopt a supply regime whereby counterparts would be required to meet minimum objective criteria. Such decisions are all alarming signs of this new trend. The Board’s 3M Turkey and Turkcell decisions are the latest examples of the same trend. In 3M Turkey, the Board analysed whether 3M Turkey, which was not found to be in a dominant position in the work safety products market, discriminated against some of its dealers under article 4 (restrictive agreements) and not under article 6 (dominance) (9 June 2016, 16-20/340-155). 3M Turkey was handed a fine of 0.5 per cent of its turnover. In Turkcell, the Board assessed whether Turkcell’s (Turkey’s dominant GSM operator) exclusive contracts foreclosed the market, based on both article 6 and article 4 (13 August 2014, 14-28/585-253). The Board found that Turkcell did not violate either article 6 or article 4. The court did not engage in a review of the nuances between article 4 and 6.