During the past year, the Romanian Competition Council (“RCC”) significantly improved its enforcement measures and intensified its efforts to identify and sanction anticompetitive practices.
Key figures of RCC’s activity are summarized below:
- 16 new investigations were initiated into alleged breaches of competition law by companies active on markets such as production and marketing of electricity, services related to natural gas, health and safety equipment, healthcare & immunoglobulin products, consumer eggs, etc. In contrast to previous years, most of 2018’s cases concerned cartels (10) and abuse of dominant position (3) rather than vertical agreements. At the end of 2018, 37 investigations were still on-going.
- 15 investigations were finalized (33% of which were cartel cases), resulting in fines of approx. EUR 93 Mio. The top 3 cases were: (1) The National Association of Insurance and Reinsurance Companies in Romania (UNSAR), together with nine insurance companies, for participating in a commercially sensitive exchange of information in order to raise prices of mandatory car insurance policies (approx. EUR 53 Mio.); (2) three major retailers (Auchan, Cora and Carrefour) and their suppliers for price fixing (approx. EUR 19 Mio.), and (3) telecom key player Orange for abuse of a dominant position (approx. EUR 14 Mio.) The total amount of fines levied by the RCC in 2018 was its second-highest, after 2011, when total fines of approx. EUR 200 Mio. were levied.
- One cross-border raid. This was the second time that the RCC carried out dawn raids in other EU Member States (Italy and Belgium), this time as part of an investigation into an alleged immunoglobulin cartel. In 2017, the RCC was assisted by the UK Competition and Markets Authority during an investigation into the aviation insurance market that involved UK companies.
- 4 companies benefited from leniency, a clear indication of better awareness and increased use of this program, rarely applied until now.
- 4 sector inquiries were finalized in connection with timber, online commerce, natural gas and mineral waters. At the end of 2018, 11 investigations were on-going, with respect to markets such as OTC drugs, the sharing economy and the effects of Big Data platforms on competition.
- The RCC authorized 57 mergers; in two of these cases, its approval was conditional on required structural or behavioural remedies.
- By the end of 2018, the RCC had been involved in 237 court cases. Last year, the percentage of favourable rulings of the Romanian High Court of Cassation and Justice for the RCC was 94%, which underlines once more the competition authority’s accuracy when investigating anticompetitive practices.
Given the intensified role of the RCC in enforcing antitrust policy, competition compliance programmes continue to be essential measures that need to be implemented by companies operating in Romania in order to mitigate antitrust-related risks.