COURT DID NOT REDUCE FINES FOR CARTEL FIRMS
The Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania (Court) upheld the decision of Konkurencijos taryba imposing fines on the companies Ecoservice and Marijampolės švara for bid-rigging in the public tender for municipal waste collection and transportation services.
In 2016 Konkurencijos taryba found that in 2015 Ekoaplinka, Ecoservice and Marijampolės švara concluded a collusive bidding agreement in the public tender for the purchase of municipal waste collection and transportation services, which was organised by UAB Marijampolės apskrities atliekų tvarkymo centras. Such restriction of competition might have resulted in higher prices of municipal waste collection and transportation services for consumers.
The authority had fined Ekoaplinka EUR 4,100, Ecoservice EUR 601,700 and Marijampolės švara – EUR 48,500.
Ekoaplinka did not appeal against the decision of Konkurencijos taryba. Although the other two companies acknowledged the infringement of the Law on Competition, they referred to court challenging the fines. In addition, Marijampolės švara claimed that Konkurencijos taryba had to terminate the investigation since no economic harm of the infringement was proved.
Both Vilnius Regional Administrative Court and the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania rejected the companies‘ claims finding no sufficient ground for the reduction of fines. The courts also agreed with Konkurencijos taryba that the fines had to be calculated on the basis of the income received from the activities of municipal waste collection and transportation services in Lithuania, not only in Marijampolė district.
The Court also dismissed the arguments of Marijampolės švara regarding the authority‘s obligation to terminate the investigation. The Court noted that the competitors formed a cartel setting prices in a public tender, and such actions are considered restricting competition and causing substantial harm by object. In the opinion of the Court, in the present case it was not necessary to prove the fact of real economic harm.
The ruling of the Court is final and binding.