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Office of Competition and Consumer Protection

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President of UOKiK has imposed penalties of more than PLN 17 million for market division scheme

< previous | next > 28.08.2020

President of UOKiK has imposed penalties of more than PLN 17 million for market division scheme
  • Producers of feed for breeding animals – Polmass and Ekoplon – have concluded competition-restricting agreements. They shared two markets, thus limiting customers in their free selection of products.
  • President of UOKiK, Tomasz Chróstny, has imposed financial penalties on them amounting to a total of more than PLN 17 million.

Market division scheme is one of practices restricting competition. It means that instead of competing fairly, entrepreneurs agree not to compete in a given area and to share the area, goods or groups of clients. As a result, potential trading partners are deprived of the opportunity to purchase products from selected sellers.

This was the case with producers of feed for breeding animals – Polmass and Ekoplon. Findings of UOKiK indicate that entrepreneurs concluded market-dividing agreements under which they did not sell their products to clients of the other party to the agreement, even if a potential trading partner contacted them on their own. The agreements were related to two groups of feed products used for rearing cattle – milk replacers as well as mineral and vitamin mixtures – and they were in force in 2008-2016 and 2008-2015, respectively.

“As a result of the collusion between Polmass and Ekoplon, cattle farmers or feed sellers could not choose products freely. If they had been clients of one company before, they could not purchase products of the other one. Consequently, the market offer for farmers and cattle farmers as well as feed sellers was limited,” says Tomasz Chróstny, President of UOKiK.

The Authority collected much evidence when investigating registered offices of both companies. The evidence collected indicates that arrangements had been made mostly by electronic mail. An example is a mail sent by one of Polmass employees who confirmed that entrepreneurs had agreed not to cooperate if a trading partner of the other party to the agreement contacted them: By the way, I would like to mention that despite the willingness to cooperate of some of the above-mentioned companies, I did not make an offer and establish cooperation as I was bound by partnership obligations with Ekoplon. I would like to ask Ekoplon to take a stand in the above-mentioned situation.

Rules of cooperation of both companies were also established during regular meetings of both the management and the employees of both companies. Entrepreneurs exchanged a list of clients as well – thanks to this list, they knew with whom not to conclude agreements.

“The agreement was in force for many years, it has resulted in losses for breeders and sellers of feed for animals. Therefore, by virtue of my decision, I have imposed high penalties on entrepreneurs in the total amount of more than PLN 17 million,” says President Tomasz Chróstny.

Pecuniary sanctions for particular entrepreneurs amounted to: PLN 12,445,185 for Ekoplon and PLN 4,704,596 for Polmass.

Simultaneously, there are also ongoing proceedings in which President of UOKiK suspects market division scheme by Polmass, this time together with Agro-Netzwerk Polska.

A severe penalty for collusion can be avoided by taking advantage of the leniency programme. It gives the entrepreneur as well as managers involved in an illegal agreement a chance to apply for the crown witness status. This allows avoiding or getting a reduced fine. The programme is available to those who agree to cooperate with UOKiK and provide evidence or information on the illegal agreement. Entrepreneurs and managers interested in the leniency programme are invited to contact the office by calling at 22 55 60 555, where UOKiK lawyers will answer all of questions, also anonymous ones, related to leniency applications.

President of the Authority would also like to remind the public that anyone who has suffered loss as a result of a breach of competition law may file a civil lawsuit against any of the entities that have broken the law.

If you are aware of any illicit agreements at your former or present workplace, please report them to UOKiK. The Authority runs a programme of acquiring information from anonymous whistle-blowers. Visit https://konkurencja.uokik.gov.pl/sygnalista/ and fill out a simple form. The system we use guarantees full anonymity, also towards the authority.

Additional information for the media:

UOKiK Press Office
Pl. Powstańców Warszawy 1, 00-950 Warszawa, Poland
Phone +48 695 902 088, +48 22 55 60 246
E-mail: [SCODE]Yml1cm9wcmFzb3dlQHVva2lrLmdvdi5wbA==[ECODE]
Twitter: @UOKiKgovPL

Attached files

 

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