The Czech Office for the Protection of Competition imposed fines for illegal cartel agreement linked to rail freight transport

By Vojtech Chloupek, Jiri Švejda

07-2020

On 22 June 2020 the Czech Office for the Protection of Competition (Office) published a press release (without publishing the full decision yet) regarding fines imposed for concluding and executing a prohibited cartel agreement regarding train projects Carpathia, Sylvania, and New Carpathia.

According to this press release, companies AWT Čechofracht a.s., INTERFRACHT s.r.o., ARGO LOGISTICS, s.r.o., SPEDICA, s.r.o. and Rail Cargo Austria AG (competitors) had distorted competition by allocating customers and contracts for the transport of goods, coordinating prices for these services, and exchanging competitively sensitive information. For this purpose, they also operated a reservation system through which they informed each other about the individual transports. This illegal cooperation was capable of affecting trade between the Member States of the European Union. Competitors thus violated both the Czech Act on the Protection on Competition as well as Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

The competitors' anticompetitive conduct took place between 2004 and 2013 whereas SPEDICA, s.r.o. participated in the cooperation agreement only in years 2008 – 2010 and INTERFRACHT s.r.o. in years 2010 – 2013.

Therefore, the Office imposed fines on four competitors in the total amount of CZK 18,426,000 (approx. EUR 690,000). Rail Cargo Austria AG was not fined because it provided the Office with information and evidence of the existence of a cartel under the leniency program. AWT Čechofracht a.s. and SPEDICA, s.r.o. cooperated with the Office during the investigation, hence their fines were significantly reduced. The decision is not final yet, because INTERFRACHT s.r.o. and ARGO LOGISTICS, s.r.o. filed an appeal.

This case is the last in a series of investigations in the field of rail freight transport, in which the Office has already fined the so-called Italia Expres cartel and the cartel harming the company Spolchemie. Three of the participating companies had been already fined in these previous two cases.

For more information contact Vojtech Chloupek and Jiri Svejda.