On February 21, 2018, the Competition Authority approved the commitments of the interbranch association of Martinique for meat, livestock and milk (AMIV) which were proposed following a complaint by the Madras agricultural cooperative (SICA Madras) and the association Producteurs Agricoles et de la Mer Associés (PRAMA) whose requests to join the AMIV were rejected without any reason.
In May 2017, SICA Madras and PRAMA lodged a claim on the merits with the Competition Authority, and provisional measures in July, to contest the membership conditions to the AMIV. The case handlers considered that the criteria, as well as the membership procedure to the interbranch organization, which is deemed crucial in order to benefit from European aid that is essential for the practice of the activity and opportunities further downstream, were indeed likely to raise competition concerns, as they were neither objective nor transparent, and were likely to be discriminatory. After having undertaken a market test and requested the improvement of the commitments initially proposed by the AMIV, the Competition Authority considered that the commitments taken by the latter were likely to respond to the competition concerns raised by the case handlers.
In substance, the AMIV proposed a series of firm commitments consisting, firstly, in modifying the membership procedure of the organization to frame it within deadlines, to hear the candidates in the membership procedure and to provide a reason in case of a refusal. Regarding the membership criteria themselves, the AMIV undertook, for more transparency, to enter all the criteria in the internal rules and to modify the appreciation of the criteria related to representativeness, actual activity and specialization to make their application objective. Lastly, as a conditional commitment, the AMIV created a new temporary status of “associate member” with a simplified access procedure compared to the status of full member (no obligation to participate in inter-profession works). This status of associate member makes it possible to benefit from European aid without having to meet the access conditions of the full status, which are deemed disproportionate to benefit simply from such aid.
This decision recalls the need to guarantee objective and transparent access conditions and membership procedure to organizations, trade unions and other professional associations. The fact that the membership to the organization was in the case at hand essential to the practice of the activity was a determining factor in the Authority’s analysis.