Slovak Antimonopoly Office imposes fines of EUR 6.7 million on Volkswagen dealers

By Vojtech Chloupek Robert Cuperka

06-2020

On 15 May 2020 the Council of the Antimonopoly Office of the Slovak Republic ("CAOS") changed the first-instance decision of the Antimonopoly Office of the Slovak Republic ("AOS") dated 3 February 2020 and imposed fines totalling of EUR 6,7 million for a cartel agreements between dealers of Volkswagen motor vehicles.

The CAOS upheld the AOS's first-instance decision, in which it proved a cartel agreement between 18 distributors. However, in relation to several cartelists the CAOS amended the first-instance decisions of the AOS by abolishing fines for two cartelists and reducing fines imposed on other two involved dealers. Furthermore, the CAOS also reduced the fine for one other cartelist by way of a settlement process. In addition, the CAOS imposed a public procurement ban on one other participant for a period of three years. 

According to the AOS, the cartel conduct has lasted for several years, restricting competition in the market for the sale of new Volkswagen passenger and commercial vehicles in Slovakia.

The involved dealers were supposed to had agreed upon the division of the Slovakian territory as well as on the amount of maximum discounts for individual types of Volkswagen vehicles. In particular, the dealers agreed that discounts offered to customers coming from outside an allocated Slovakian region should be 1 % lower than the discount which would be offered by the dealer located in the customers’ own region. Against this background, the AOS stated that “it was aimed to eliminate competition between the dealers, as well as to maintain a certain range of customers and price levels. The dealers, in particular, allocated customers  by offering less advantageous conditions to such customers who, in the dealers’ awareness, "had belonged" to another dealer, i.e. in the case that the customer previously had already bought vehicles from another dealer within the Volkswagen sales network. This practice was purposed to motivate the customer to buy a vehicle from "his/her" seller, respectively the customer was directly instructed to buy the car from a particular dealer.” 

Furthermore, the cartelists were also supposed to had coordinated public procurements and tenders by exchanging sensitive business information.

The CAOS´ decision came into force on 1 June 2020, however, the parties may seek a judicial review of the decision.

For more information please see here (in Slovakian).

For more information contact Vojtech Chloupek.