This article provides a brief overview of a recent Competition Board decision concerning an investigation of five undertakings and one association of undertakings active in cabotage roll-on/roll-off (Ro-Ro) transportation lines in Turkey. The decision was announced on the Competition Authority's website.
After a 17-month investigation of undertakings active in the Ambarli-Bandirma and Ambarli-Topçular Ro-Ro transportation lines, the Competition Board announced its final decision on 19 April 2019. The companies under investigation were:
- Tramola Gemi Isletmeciligi ve Ticaret AS (Tramola);
- Kale Nakliyat Seyahat ve Turizm AS (Kale Nakliyat);
- Istanbullines Denizcilik Yatirim AS (Istanbullines);
- Kabotaj Hatti Ro-Ro ve Feribot Isletmecileri Dernegi;
- Istanbul Deniz Nakliyat Gida Insaat Sanayi Ticaret Ltd Sti (IDN); and
- Istanbul Deniz Otobüsleri Sanayi ve Ticaret AS (IDO).
The Competition Board found that Tramola, Kale Nakliyat and Istanbullines, which operate in the Ambarli-Bandirma Ro-Ro line, and IDN and IDO, which are active in the Ambarli-Topçular Ro-Ro line, had violated Article 4 of the Law 4054 on the Protection of Competition by collectively determining prices. The board levied turnover-based monetary fines against all five of the investigated undertakings at different rates.
With regard to the Ambarli-Topçular Ro-Ro line, the Competition Board decided to impose:
- a fine equivalent to 0.8% of IDO's annual gross income; and
- a fine equivalent to 0.8% of IDN's annual gross income.
With regard to the assessment of the undertakings active in the Ambarli-Bandirma Ro-Ro line, the Competition Board decided to impose:
- a fine equivalent to 4% of Istanbullines's annual gross income;
- a fine equivalent to 4% of Tramola's annual gross income;
- a fine equivalent to 1.6% of Kale Nakliyat's annual gross income, but as it submitted a leniency application under the Regulation on Active Cooperation for Detecting Cartels, this fine was halved;
- an additional fine of one per 1,000 of its annual gross income on Istanbullines for the submission of incomplete information to the Competition Authority; and
- no fine on Kabotaj, as it found no violation of Article 4 of Law 4054.
The total amount of the fines imposed on all undertakings was TL7,404,850.77 (approximately $1.5 million or €1.3 million).
The result confirms the board's established practice regarding the imposition of administrative monetary fines based on the entire turnover of undertakings.
The lawyer who represented IDO in the investigation commented on the decision as follows:
While we note that the administrative monetary fine percentage assigned to our client is significantly lower than that of others, we still find that the Board uses the "cartel" term too quickly and rigidly in its finding of a price fixing, disregarding the one-off nature of the information exchange and the exceptional circumstances surrounding that single communication in the form of an attempt to invite a competitor into a dysfunctional transportation line.
The reasoned decision, especially the evaluation on the Ambarli-Topcular Ro-Ro line, is expected to provide enlightening information on the board's reasoning, its views on the definition of a cartel and its approach regarding information exchange.
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