Cartels in Cyprus are addressed by the Protection of Competition Law 13(I)/2008, as amended by Law 41(I)/2014 (the ‘Competition Law’). The Commission for the Protection of Competition (the ‘CPC’) is the competent implementing authority.
On establishing infringements of the Competition Law, the CPC can impose administrative fines of up to 10% of the combined annual revenue of the undertakings concerned, plus an administrative fine of up to 5% of the average daily turnover of the undertakings concerned during the previous financial year, for each day that the infringement continues.
Notable recent instances of the CPC imposing sanctions include a €20.8 million fine on retail oil companies for price-fixing; a €31 million fine on 8 banks and their joint venture in the payment services market and a EUR 2.1 million fine on a cartel in the market for sales of dairy milk.
Collusive agreements, decisions and concerted practices
All agreements between undertakings, decisions by associations of undertakings and concerted practices that have as their object or effect the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition within the national market, are void ab initio.
Such collusive conduct can have the following object or effect:
► Directly or indirectly fix the purchase or selling prices or any other trading conditions.
► Limit or control production, markets, technical development or investment.
► Share markets or sources of supply.
► Apply dissimilar conditions to equivalent transactions with other trading parties, thereby placing them at a competitive disadvantage.
► Make the conclusion of contracts subject to acceptance by the other parties of supplementary obligations that, by their nature or according to commercial use, have no connection with the subject of the contracts.
A restrictive agreement, decision or concerted practice is permitted and valid without a prior decision of the CPC if it contributes to improving the production or distribution of goods or to promoting technical or economic progress. It must also allow consumers a fair share of the resulting benefit. It must not:
► Impose on the undertakings concerned restrictions that are not indispensable to the attainment of these objectives.
► Give the undertakings the possibility of eliminating competition for a substantial part of the products in question.
Provided there is no conflict with an existing block exemption issued by the Council of Ministers, block exemption regulations at an EU level are deemed to be proportionately applicable to agreements, decisions or concerted practices to which the Competition Law applies.
Additionally, Commission Regulation (EU) No. 330/2010 proportionately applies to vertical agreements between an association of undertakings and its members or between such an association and its suppliers.
Immunity and Leniency Programme
An immunity and leniency programme is in force under which procedures exist for applying to the CPC for immunity from fines or reduction of fines in collusion cases (the ‘Leniency Programme’).
The CPC can grant immunity and exercise its power in relation to this if the applicant is the first to come forward and submit evidence that, in the CPC’s view, may enable it to either:
► Commence an investigation into a potential infringement of section 3 of the Competition Law.
► Establish an infringement of section 3 of the Competition Law in connection with an alleged cartel within the legislative provisions.
The CPC’s power to grant immunity to an applicant or reduce the fine that would normally be imposed on the applicant if a cartel is found to exist is determined (or varied where there is a potential reduction of the fine), according to and depending on the time each applicant approaches and provides evidence to the CPC.
Conditional immunity may be granted where the application satisfies the CPC that an infringement of section 3 of the Law is found or an investigation in relation to a potential infringement can be initiated.