Complaints procedure for private parties

Is there a procedure whereby private parties can complain to the authority responsible for antitrust enforcement about alleged unlawful vertical restraints?

The Competition Board is entitled to launch an investigation into alleged anticompetitive conduct ex officio or in response to a complaint. The Competition Board will conduct a preliminary investigation if it finds the notice or complaint to be serious. The preliminary report of the Competition Authority’s experts will be submitted to the Competition Board within 30 calendar days of the preliminary investigation decision being taken by the Competition Board. The Competition Board will then decide, within 10 calendar days, whether to launch a formal investigation. If the Competition Board decides to initiate an investigation, it will send notice to the undertakings concerned within 15 calendar days. The investigation will be completed within six months. If deemed necessary, this period may be extended, once only, for an additional period of up to six months, by the Competition Board.

Regulatory enforcement

How frequently is antitrust law applied to vertical restraints by the authority responsible for antitrust enforcement? What are the main enforcement priorities regarding vertical restraints?

Provisions regarding vertical restrictions are frequently applied in Turkey. Vertical restraints comprising resale price restrictions, selective distributions systems, conditions on exclusive territory or customer allocation, and passive sales could be considered the priorities of the Turkish competition regime.

What are the consequences of an infringement of antitrust law for the validity or enforceability of a contract containing prohibited vertical restraints?

Pursuant to the Turkish competition law regime, where the vertical agreement containing a prohibited restraint fails to satisfy the conditions for one of the block exemptions or the individual exemption, such agreement will be void provided that the relevant clause of the agreement may not be severed from the agreement. If the relevant restraining clause may be severed from the agreement, the rest of the agreement will remain valid.

May the authority responsible for antitrust enforcement directly impose penalties or must it petition another entity? What sanctions and remedies can the authorities impose? What notable sanctions or remedies have been imposed? Can any trends be identified in this regard?

The Competition Board is the sole responsible authority for decisions, including imposing penalties on the violating undertakings. A company infringing the competition law may face a fine of up to 10 per cent of its Turkish turnover generated in the financial year preceding the date of the decision. Employees or managers of the undertakings or association of undertakings (or both) that had a determining effect on the creation of the violation are also fined up to 5 per cent of the fine imposed on the undertaking or association of undertakings. The minimum amount of fine that may be imposed under Law No. 4054 is set at 26,028 Turkish lira for 2019.

Investigative powers of the authority

What investigative powers does the authority responsible for antitrust enforcement have when enforcing the prohibition of vertical restraints?

The Competition Board may request all information that it deems necessary from all public and private institutions and organisations, undertakings and trade associations. Failure to comply with a decision ordering the production of information may lead to the imposition of a turnover-based fine. In cases where incorrect or incomplete information has been provided in response to a request for information, the same penalty may be imposed.

The Competition Board is also able to conduct on-site inspections (dawn raids). The relevant company, employees and outside counsel are obliged to cooperate with the Competition Board during the dawn raid. Obstructing an on-site inspection (eg, by refusing to grant the staff of the Competition Authority access to business premises) will trigger a turnover-based administrative fine.

Private enforcement

To what extent is private enforcement possible? Can non-parties to agreements containing vertical restraints obtain declaratory judgments or injunctions and bring damages claims? Can the parties to agreements themselves bring damages claims? What remedies are available? How long should a company expect a private enforcement action to take?

The Competition Board does not decide whether the victims of anticompetitive conduct merit damages. These aspects are supplemented with private lawsuits. Articles 57 et seq of Law No. 4054 entitle any person who is injured in his or her business or property by reason of anything forbidden in the antitrust laws to bring damages claims against the violators to recover up to three times their personal damages, plus litigation costs and attorney fees. Therefore, Turkey is one of the exceptional jurisdictions where a treble damages principle exists in law. In private suits, the incumbent firms are adjudicated before regular civil courts. Most civil courts wait for the decision of the Competition Board before building their own decision on the Competition Board’s decision since civil courts do not usually analyse whether there is an anticompetitive agreement or concerted practice, and defer to the Competition Board to render its opinion on the matter, thus treating the issue as a prejudicial question.