Serbia’s national competition authority (NCA) has announced it has issued an infringement decision for bid rigging – based on a leniency application. The bid rigging concerned the supply of Konica Minolta office equipment in the public procurement procedure in Serbia.
What was the case about?
The case concerned bid rigging, which is something the Serbian NCA has been focusing on in the last few years.
The NCA launched the probe in May last year, investigating several undertakings active in the sale of office equipment. Specifically, the probe pertained to the supply of Konica Minolta equipment in the public procurement procedure. The investigation was preceded by dawn raids on five locations in Serbia.
As we now know, the bid rigging investigation was based on evidence contained in a leniency application filed by one of the parties to the bid rigging scheme. As a result of the leniency application, the NCA gave immunity from fine to the leniency applicant.
How much were the fines?
The Serbian NCA is yet to publish the infringement decision in full. Based on the statement available on the NCA’s website, the NCA in the proceedings imposed a fine of RSD 60 million (approx. EUR 500,000). More info about this will be available once the decision is published in entirety.
What is Serbia’s leniency program like?
The Serbian Competition Act envisages the possibility of both full and partial immunity from antitrust fine. In general, a party to the restrictive agreement may benefit from full immunity if it was the first party to turn to the Serbian NCA with evidence of a restrictive agreement, provided that it was not the ringleader. A party which does not meet the requirements for full immunity from fine may still benefit from a partial fine reduction.
Unlike some other jurisdictions, where the leniency program is reserved for horizontal agreements (cartels), in Serbia leniency is also available for vertical agreements. Actually, the first cases of leniency in Serbia concerned vertical agreements, rather than cartels.
Serbia’s leniency program has been in place for a decade and so far has had a limited impact in the practice of the NCA. This latest case may indicate an increasing willingness of parties to restrictive agreements to come forward to the NCA, especially taking into account the NCA’s recent (hyper)activity in starting new antitrust investigations.