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Office of Competition and Consumer Protection

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20 years of UOKiK - current problems of Competition Policy

< previous | next > 28.05.2010

20 years of UOKiK - current problems of Competition Policy

Whom to protect – competition or competitors? How to support competition law? How to increase the effectiveness of antitrust policy instruments? - these were the questions that competition experts from all over the world tried to answer on the occasion of UOKiK’s anniversary celebrations. Discussion concerned current problems, experiences and possible solutions. Is Polish Office ready for the challenges standing before it?

Twenty years have passed as if it were one day... – these words of the popular song by Jan Tadeusz Stanisławski perfectly describe the atmosphere of UOKiK’s anniversary. Yesterday, at the Royal Castle, as part of the celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the Office, among numerous guests, we talked about two decades of operation of a modern antitrust legislation. We posed important questions about the future of competition policy, challenges standing before us and the effective ways of facing them. Among our guests and speakers were: Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki, professor Leszek Balcerowicz, Alexander Italianer – Director-General for Competition at the European Commission and William Kovacic – Commissioner of the United States Federal Trade Commission.

When assessing Polish present state, it is good to look back on the history. Profound changes which took place in our country after 1989 – including the creation of an antitrust authority – turned out to be effective. It was confirmed by the words of William Kovacic: “Poland has determined the course of action of many countries ... We’re all shooting for the same goal, that’s why it is so important to draw on the experiences of others and make use of proven solutions.”

Along with the development of a free market, the Antitrust Office, which was established on 13 April 1990, expanded the scope of its competences. At the beginning, it was responsible for combating competition restricting practices of monopolies and supervising ownership transformations in State enterprises. In January 1996, when the protection of consumer interests was incorporated in the responsibilities of the antitrust authority, it was renamed to the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection. Further expansion of the scope of the Office’s competencies was related to the development of Poland’s free market and its accession to the European Union.

The basic mission of UOKiK is to create conditions for the development of unrestricted competition. As the architect of Polish economic reform, professor Leszek Balcerowicz, said in his presentation: “You cannot oust competition from social life... Without competition there is no development … What is important, however, is the nature of such a competition and the way it is protected.” For us it is the effectiveness of action that counts, not the action itself. Each year, the number of decisions concerning a violation of antitrust law by undertakings and ordering a change of practices is growing. “In line with the principle of freedom of economic activity, UOKiK only intervenes when the market balance is at a risk. In such a case, the underlying causes of this situation are investigated, we try to understand them and then find the most efficient solution. It is worth emphasizing that around 80% of decisions issued by the President are upheld by courts”, as waspointed out by the President of UOKiK, Małgorzata Krasnodębska-Tomkiel.Another important issue is the transparency of conducted activities. In order to increase their predictability, UOKiK has drawn up a series of documents – with explanations and guidelines – which concern such issues as the policy of imposing penalties for violating the provisions of the Act on competition and consumer protection or the application of the leniency programme.

We asked enterprises and consumers, to whom UOKiK’s actions are addressed, whether in their opinion we operate effectively. According to sociological studies conducted at the request of UOKiK in 2009, it follows that 66.5% of business entities confirm the effectiveness of our market interventions. The total of 85.8% of undertakings and 71% of consumers think that the Office is a necessary institution. And how are we assessed by our colleagues from countries in which the history of free market economy dates back further than the beginning of 1990's? In the words of professor Eleanor Fox from the New York University, “ (...) from the very beginning Poland has been a star within our big family of competition protection authorities.”

The most important market interventions of antitrust authorities concern anti-competitive agreements. The most serious ones among them – cartels – are severely punished. Last year in Poland, for the first time in history, we imposed maximum financial sanctions of the total amount of over PLN 114 million – equalling 10% of revenue of inpidual cartel members – on cement producers who had been sharing the market as well as fixing prices and dates of introducing price rises. At the same time, it is worth indicating that in the record-breaking year 2009 the total value of financial penalties imposed by the Office exceeded PLN 558 million, as compared to PLN 931 thousand in 1995. It is due to the change in the Office’s policy on fines. During the past 20 years, the market has evolved and the awareness of undertakings and the knowledge of competition provisions has increased. Our aims have also changed and the fines imposed have become more severe. Issues connected with the enforcement of antitrust law as well as the value of fines were also discussed in detail during the conference.

Whom to protect – competition or competitors? This question constitutes a challenge for antitrust authorities all over the world. Competition and the market as well as enterprises operating in it are inseparably linked with each other. These elements cannot be treated inpidually. A comprehensive economic analysis based on transparent law should constitute the basis of every intervention of antitrust authorities. During the conference, it was also underlined that the economic situation, that is the time of the global crisis, will constitute a test for the competition. The experts also talked about private enforcement – public-private procedure of pursuing claims related to the violation of antitrust law – which could supplement actions carried out by antitrust authorities and about the role of judges in shaping competition policy. 

Competition protection is also about formulating effective legislation, education, communication and information – which was emphasized by the participants of yesterday's conference. UOKiK achieves this goal by contributing to the forming of a pro-competitive and pro-consumer legislation base. In this respect, the Office undertakes its own initiatives, consults the shape of provisions and blocks projects which may threaten the market and the competition. Annually, we provide opinions for over 2,000 legal acts.

We also remember about education. Before we enforce the law, we want to be sure that enterprises apply it and operate in compliance with it. A good example of an educational project directed at professional market participants is last year's campaign, based on the famous story of Staszek, promoting the leniency programme.

As part of the 20th anniversary celebrations, a series of events targeted at public opinion has been taking place. Conferences, seminars, numerous publications and media projects aim to increase the society’s awareness of the role and influence of the antitrust provisions on the economic and social life.

For more information on the conference and other events connected with the anniversary’s celebrations please consult www.20lat.uokik.gov.pl.

The jubilee publication is available at the Office’s website:

www.uokik.gov.pl/publications.php#faq1002

Additional information the media:
Małgorzata Cieloch, Spokesperson for UOKiK
Department of International Relations and Communication
Pl. Powstańców Warszawy 1, 00-950 Warsaw, Poland
Phone: (+48 22) 827 28 92, 55 60 106, 55 60 430
faks (+48 22) 826 11 86
E-mail: [SCODE]bWFsZ29yemF0YS5jaWVsb2NoQHVva2lrLmdvdi5wbA==[ECODE]

Attached files

Attached images

27 May 2010 -  CURRENT ISSUES IN COMPETITION POLICY - Małgorzata Krasnodębska-Tomkiel, President of the UOKiK 27 May 2010 -  CURRENT ISSUES IN COMPETITION POLICY - Leszek Balcerowicz,  author of the Polish economic reform; Małgorzata Krasnodębska-Tomkiel, President of the UOKiK; Alexander Italianer, Director-General for Competition, European Commission 27 May 2010 -  CURRENT ISSUES IN COMPETITION POLICY - Alexander Italianer, Director-General for Competition, European Commission 27 May 2010 -  CURRENT ISSUES IN COMPETITION POLICY - Leszek Balcerowicz, author of the Polish economic reform 27 May 2010 -  CURRENT ISSUES IN COMPETITION POLICY - William E. Kovacic, Commissioner of the US Federal Trade Commission
27 May 2010 -  CURRENT ISSUES IN COMPETITION POLICY - Eleanor M. Fox, Walter J. Derenberg Professor of Trade Regulation, New York University School of Law, USA 27 May 2010 -  CURRENT ISSUES IN COMPETITION POLICY - Małgorzata Starczewska-Krzysztoszek, Polish Confederation of Private Employers Lewiatan; Andreas Mundt, President of the Bundeskartellamt, Germany 27 May 2010 -  CURRENT ISSUES IN COMPETITION POLICY – former Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki; author of the Polish economic reform Leszek Balcerowicz 27 May 2010 -  CURRENT ISSUES IN COMPETITION POLICY - Frédéric Jenny, Chairman of the OECD Competition Committee; Andreas Mundt, President of the Bundeskartellamt, Germany; Peter Freeman, Chairman of the Competition Commission, the UK; Pieter Kalbfleisch, Chairman of the Board of the Netherlands Competition Authority
27 May 2010 -  CURRENT ISSUES IN COMPETITION POLICY
27 May 2010 -  CURRENT ISSUES IN COMPETITION POLICY 27 May 2010 -  CURRENT ISSUES IN COMPETITION POLICY - Małgorzata Krasnodębska-Tomkiel, President of the UOKiK; former Prime Minister Tadeusz Mazowiecki 27 May 2010 -  CURRENT ISSUES IN COMPETITION POLICY - Andreas Mundt, President of the Bundeskartellamt, Germany; Alexander Italianer, Director-General for Competition, European Commission; Pieter Kalbfleisch, Chairman of the Board of the Netherlands Competition Authority 27 May 2010 -  CURRENT ISSUES IN COMPETITION POLICY - Peter Freeman, Chairman of the Competition Commission, the UK; Alexander Italianer, Director-General for Competition, European Commission; Mercedes Pedraz Calvo, Judge, Audiencia Nacional, Spain 27 May 2010 -  CURRENT ISSUES IN COMPETITION POLICY - Frédéric Jenny, Chairman of the OECD Competition Committee; Andreas Mundt, President of the Bundeskartellamt, Germany

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