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Office of Competition and Consumer Protection

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Cooperation with the President of UOKiK? It pays off

< previous | next > 09.12.2020

Cooperation with the President of UOKiK? It pays off
  • Half a billion zlotys - this is the amount saved, this year alone, by companies that decided to cooperate with the President of UOKiK in investigations conducted by the Authority.
  • Anti-monopoly regulations allow economic operators to take advantage of leniency or plea-bargaining programmes.

Competition-limiting practices - such as unlawful arrangements or abuse of the dominant position - disadvantage honest entrepreneurs, consumers and the entire Polish economy. Practices of this type lead to an increase in prices and lower the quality of products and services offered, compared to a situation in which the market competition between economic operators is not disturbed.

Competition infringements carry a financial penalty of up to 10% of a given entrepreneur’s annual turnover. Holders of managerial positions who are directly liable for breaching the law are also subject to sanctions - the penalty they may be required to pay equals up to PLN 2 million.

- Investigations we initiate may lead to the imposition of hefty fines, but the regulations in force provide entrepreneurs with the ability to avoid them. Two conditions need to be met: economic operators have to plead guilty and must offer their full cooperation to the Authority. The leniency programme offers also complete immunity from the financial penalties, or may lead to their considerable reduction. Voluntary plea-bargaining reduces the fine by an additional 10 per cent. Real advantages are enjoyed both by the applicant and by the market, as unlawful practices are eliminated quicker. All that is illustrated by the latest decision concerning the collusion scheme on the Warsaw heat market. PGNiG Group companies and one of the former presidents of the board would be required to pay nearly PLN 500 million in penalties. As they informed us about the collusion before we even started to probe into the case, and then continued to provide additional evidence, they avoided the fine imposed by the Authority - says Tomasz Chróstny, President of UOKiK.

Leniency programme

The leniency programme has been in place in Poland since May 2004. By the end of November 2020, entrepreneurs filed the total of 91 leniency applications to UOKiK. Based thereon, the President of UOKiK reduced penalties imposed on economic operators, e.g. Castorama (by over PLN 73 million) or Brother (by over PLN 670,000), or even refrained from their imposition, e.g. in the case of INTERSPORT Polska or Swiss Krono.

Entrepreneurs or managers who participated in anti-competitive agreements may seek a full exemption from or reduction of the fines imposed. Such a solution may be adopted when collusion participants decide to cooperate with the Authority. An entrepreneur may be fully exempted from the penalty if they are the first participant of a collusion scheme that provides the anti-monopoly authority with significant information about or with evidence proving the existence of the scheme, withdraws therefrom and offers their full cooperation to UOKiK. Importantly, the application submitted by an economic operator may also cover natural persons holding managerial positions therein.

Those who hold managerial positions and are in charge of concluding and operating collusion schemes should be aware that they may be held liable even if they currently work for a different employer. Bearing that in mind, we encourage managers who change their place of employment to contact the Authority and to disclose information about legal breaches committed by their previous company. This will allow the managers to avoid the penalty or to have it significantly reduced. Adoption of such measures may prove difficult in a situation in which UOKiK learns about the scheme from a different source, e.g. from anonymous whistleblowers.

For more information about the programme, please visit: https://konkurencja.uokik.gov.pl/program-lagodzenia-kar/

Whistleblower programme - transformation of quantity into quality

Under the “Whistleblower” programme, UOKiK receives anonymous signals about potential breaches of competition-related regulations. We launched the programme in April 2017. 5418 reports have been submitted with UOKiK by November 2020. The programme allows us to obtain leads on potential competition law violations that persons cooperating with a given entrepreneur, e.g. its employees, may be aware of.

Initially, whistleblowers could contact UOKiK using an e-mail contact box and a hotline. Starting from December 2019, they may also file their submissions using a dedicated online platform. Although the number of reports received dropped (to nearly 500 in 2020, compared to approximately 1,500 in 2019) after the platform had been launched, the submissions are much more valuable. The online solution allows the whistleblowers to properly structure the information they submit and indicates the data that is of value from the Authority’s point of view. Evidence may be attached to each submission, e.g. in the form of e-mails or minutes from meetings between competitors. The connection between the Authority, the app and the whistleblower is encrypted and protected by means of a password. Metadata pertaining to the files attached are deleted automatically. This means that the IP address of the whistleblower’s computer cannot be traced. Such a solution provides whistleblowers with full anonymity.

For more information about the programme, please visit: https://konkurencja.uokik.gov.pl/sygnalista/

Plea-bargaining

Anti-trust laws provide entrepreneurs with the option to have the financial sanctions imposed thereon reduced by participating in a plea-bargaining scheme. Such a solution was first introduced in 2015. The President of UOKiK may reduce monetary sanctions by 10%, and entrepreneurs waive their right to file an appeal to court. This allows to conclude the procedure quicker, and entrepreneurs may return to doing business as usual earlier. So far, this programme has been taken advantage of in three anti-monopoly investigations. The decision concerning Yamaha Music Europe that was issued a few weeks ago may serve as the latest example here. In addition to the advantages stemming from the plea-bargaining programme, the company enjoyed an extra 50% fine reduction under the leniency programme.

A virtual open day for entrepreneurs - competition protection

Are you an economic operator or a natural person being a part of a cartel? Ask UOKiK how to take advantage of the leniency programme. Are you aware of an unlawful arrangement or of a situation in which a monopolist abuses their market position? You do not know how to submit that information to UOKiK? Contact UOKiK experts and learn more about the Whistleblower programme. As we are currently celebrating the Competition Week, we encourage you to contact our experts today (9 December):

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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