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Office of Competition and Consumer Protection

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Decision of the President of UOKiK - collusion on the dietary suplements market

< previous | next > 30.08.2021

Decision of the President of UOKiK - collusion on the dietary suplements market
  • President of UOKiK Tomasz Chróstny issued a decision stating that the prices of Solgar brand dietary supplements were determined as a result of an arrangement aimed at limiting competition.
  • This means that consumers have been overpaying for these products for many years.
  • A sanction of over PLN 1.2 million was imposed on Solgar Polska. The President of the Office also fined two company executives who were personally responsible for the collusion. The total fine in their case amounted to over PLN 280,000 .

Solgar Polska sp. z o.o., with its registered seat in Warsaw, is a company that places dietary supplements, including vitamins, herbs and microelements, produced by the American company Solgar Inc on the Polish market. They are sold both in stationary outlets, mainly in pharmacies, and online. In his decision, the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection found that Solgar Polska agreed with its retailers to apply minimum resale prices for its dietary supplements.

"Our investigation revealed that for many years retailers were unable to sell Solgar products at prices lower than those imposed by Solgar Polska. This means that consumers were paying for the supplements more than they would have been able to under competitive conditions between stores," says UOKiK President Tomasz Chróstny.

The unauthorised arrangement was in place since at least March 2010 through at least October 2017. The arrangements were initially in writing and were explicitly expressed in the anti-competitive provisions contained in the agreements between Solgar Polska and its distributors. In addition, the arrangement was supported by informal activities based on e-mails and telephone contacts as well as face-to-face meetings. As of 2015, the wording of agreements with distributors was amended and provisions relating to the application of fixed retail resale prices were removed. However, Solgar Poland and the retail distributors continued to make arrangements based on e-mails and telephone contacts as well as face-to-face meetings.

Solgar Polska monitored prices applied by its trading partners and took action if any of them tried to sell the supplements cheaper. In the case of non-compliance with the arrangements, Solgar Polska threatened its distributors with retaliatory measures, such as loss of preferential cooperation terms or even termination of the agreement. Retailers also monitored each other's prices and informed Solgar Poland if any of them applied lower prices.

"I imposed a fine of over PLN 1.2 million on Solgar Polska. The investigation also revealed that two of the company's top executives were responsible for the collusion. The President of the Management Board and a member of the Management Board of Solgar Polska, who coordinated and supervised the activities of the company's other employees with regard to price setting, had a significant impact on the collusive scheme," says Tomasz Chróstny, President of UOKiK.

Amount of fines

According to the operative part of the decision, the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection imposed on:

" Solgar Polska sp. z o.o. with its registered office in Warsaw - financial penalty in the amount of PLN 1 251 734.76 on (...)

Grażyna Durkiewicz - financial penalty in the amount of PLN 187,500.00  on (...)

Barbara Szymaniak - financial penalty in the amount of PLN 93,750.00."

The maximum penalty for arrangements that limit competition is 10% of the annual turnover of the company and in the case of natural persons – PLN 2 million. The decision is not final and may be appealed to the court.

How to avoid a penalty

Severe penalties for making arrangements that limit competition can be avoided through a leniency programme. Report your participation in collusion to the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection. At a dedicated telephone number 22 55 60 555, the lawyers of the Office answer all questions regarding the programme, including anonymous ones.

The Office also runs a programme of acquiring information from anonymous whistleblowers. Please visit https://konkurencja.uokik.gov.pl/sygnalista/ and fill in a simple form. The European system we use guarantees full anonymity, also towards the Office.

The President of UOKiK also reminds that anyone who has suffered damage as a result of a competition law violation may file a civil lawsuit against any of the entities that broke the law. When filing a lawsuit, one should indicate the amount of damages sought. In determining such amount, it is necessary to consider a counterfactual scenario, i.e., what the market would have been like in the absence of the violation. As a general rule, the damage will be the excess in the price paid that results from the anticompetitive practice.

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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