On August 2, 2017, the Spanish Competition authority (Comisión Nacional de los Mercados y la Competencia or “CNMC”) made public its annual report for 2016.
The report shows that the CNMC imposed a total of €227 million in fines in 15 different decisions into a variety of anticompetitive practices.
At the beginning of 2016, 37 informal investigations were ongoing. Over the course of the year, the Directorate for Competition (Dirección de Competencia or “DC”) opened nine other proceedings covering different sectors, including agriculture, chemicals and industrials, transport, information society and finance. Six of the investigations were into suspicions of horizontal agreements, two vertical agreements, and one an alleged abuse of dominance by the national association of thoroughbred horses (ANCCE).
According to the report, in 2016 the DC carried out dawn raids at the premises of 20 companies as part of six investigations in the markets for electrical cables, car spare parts, parcel delivery, advertising, arts, and railway equipment.
The report also highlights that since January 2010, the CNMC has uncovered 25 cartels directly through the leniency program. Specifically, published cases since then show a total of 43 leniency applications, including exemptions in 19 cases and fine reductions in 24 cases.
In fact, 96% of the fines imposed in 2016 (i.e. €218 million) resulted from 9 cartel cases, of which three were initiated as a result of leniency applications.
The report says that, having completed their investigations, the DC sent a total of 28 proposed decisions to the Council, of which 13 proposed a finding of infringement, 12 proposed closing cases due to insufficient evidence, two proposed to close investigations without establishing an infringement and one case was submitted to be closed with commitments.
As regards merger control, the CNMC received a total of 104 notifications during the year. Most notifications came from the manufacturing sector with 33 notifications, while the chemicals and IT sector each accounted for 11. The CNMC closed 102 merger cases (five of them notified in 2015), of which 96 were approved unconditionally and five with conditions in Phase I, while one of the notifications was withdrawn. No cases required a review in Phase II.
The report indicates that the National High Court and the Supreme Court handed down 160 judgments concerning 48 of the CNMC’s decisions last year.
In particular, the Supreme Court ruled in 66 appeals concerning 22 different cases. The Court upheld five appeals against CNMC’s decisions, annulled three judgments of the High Court, and in the remaining cases ordered the CNMC to recalculate the fines imposed according to its January 29, 2015 ruling in the file S/0269/10 Transitarios 2. On the other hand, the High Court issued rulings in 94 appeals against 26 CNMC decisions, of which 57% were partially upheld (most of them related to fine recalculation). Additionally, the High Court stated in a further 11 rulings that the CNMC’s proceedings were time-barred for not concluding the investigations within the statutory 18 months.
Finally, the report points out that the decentralized system of the Defense of Competition policy has been consolidated in 2016, as part of a collaboration strategy between the CNMC and the regional competition authorities. In this regard, last year the CNMC took decisions in 8 cases referred to it by the Madrid authority and in 2 cases received from Murcia, which can carry out antitrust investigations with a regional scope, but the CNMC is competent to decide based on their investigations.
The full text of the CNMC’s annual report for 2016 (in Spanish) is available here.