At the end of 2021, the President of the Polish Office of Competition and Consumer Protection (Polish: Urząd Ochrony Konkurencji i Konsumentów, UOKiK) issued two decisions concerning anti-competitive agreements (cartels) allegedly concluded by DAF truck dealers.
In the first decision, the UOKiK stated that five companies divided the Polish market among themselves. Together, they agreed that each would sell DAF trucks in a specific area and would not compete for customers in other parts of Poland. They also colluded on the prices of DAF trucks, and some of them also exchanged information about bids submitted in tenders. That arrangement lasted for at least seven years - from February 2011 to March 2018.
In the second decision, the UOKiK found that three companies jointly agreed that each of them would only participate in public tenders in a certain territory and would not submit bids in areas where the remaining companies operated.
In two decisions, the UOKiK imposed fines totalling some PLN 121 million (approx. EUR 26,590,642) on six companies. The fines range from PLN 652,766 (approx. EUR 143,706) to PLN 45,289,798 (approx. EUR 9,971,736).
Two companies received reduced fines. They both benefitted from a 10% reduction for voluntary acceptance of the fines, and one of these companies also benefitted from a 50% fine reduction for leniency. It is worth pointing out that the leniency applicant could not receive immunity as the UOKiK already had sufficient evidence to initiate antitrust proceedings when the leniency application was filed.
UOKiK’s investigation also suggests that the managers of the companies fined were actively involved in implementing the anti-competitive agreement by, for example, requiring their salespeople to adhere to the collusive arrangement.
As a result, the UOKiK imposed fines on eight managers totalling nearly PLN 1.7 million (approx. EUR 370,284). In the case of companies that benefitted from reductions in the fines imposed on them, the managers received the same level of fine reduction.
Furthermore, the authority imposed two highest-ever fines on two managers (each of them received a fine of PLN 495,000 or approx. EUR 108,980).
The increase in the fines imposed on the individuals (compared with fines imposed in other decisions) suggests that the UOKiK will continue to apply a stricter approach towards managers liable for competition law infringements.
On the other hand, we believe that the managers are likely to appeal the fines imposed and raise arguments concerning their rights to fair proceedings before the UOKiK. That is expected as Polish administrative proceedings give UOKiK considerable leeway in assessing the intentionality of a manager's actions and the extent of a manager's impact on a competition law infringement.
For the UOKiK press release regarding the two decisions (in English), please see here.