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KONKURENCIJOS TARYBA ASSIGNS INDIVIDUAL SANCTIONS TO INFRINGERS IN OBSTRUCTION CASE

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The Lithuanian competition authority Konkurencijos taryba assigned individual sanctions to the companies Būsto aplinka and Mano Būsto priežiūra which obstructed the inspection conducted by the authority’s officials.

Konkurencijos taryba implemented the ruling of the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania adopted in September 2021 which annulled joint and several liability for the companies Būsto aplinka and Mano Būsto priežiūra forming one economic unit and obliged the authority to recalculate the fines for the infringement of the Law on Competition.

The extended panel of judges agreed with the assessment of Konkurencijos taryba and the court of first instance that the undertakings in question obstructed the inspection and prevented the authority‘s officials from obtaining documents necessary for the investigation – the officials asked for access to the company’s e-mail server, however, it was denied, and in the meantime, information was deleted, additionally it was found that a dedicated software was used to delete files stored on a computer without the possibility of recovering them.

The Court acknowledged that the competition authority had rightly and legitimately established that Būsto aplinka and Mano Būsto priežiūra constituted a single economic entity (one economic unit), therefore, the sanction in present case must be assigned not only to the company Būsto aplinka, but also to Mano Būsto priežiūra. However, the court noted that the legal norms of the Law on Competition of that time did not establish joint and several liability, therefore, the Court left unchanged the decision of Vilnius Regional Administrative Court which stated that Konkurencijos taryba must review its decision and assign individual fines.

Having reopened the investigation, Konkurencijos taryba took into account the companies‘ total annual turnover of 2021 when calculating the basic amount of the fines. When imposing individual sanctions, the authority took into account that both companies acknowledged essential circumstances of the investigation in relation to the calculation of the fines and imposed the following fines for the infringement of the Law on Competition: Būsto aplinka – EUR 94,020, Mano Būsto priežiūra – EUR 113,520.

The decision of Konkurencijos taryba may be appealed to Vilnius Regional Administrative Court.

The Law on Competition provides that undertakings must not prevent officials from carrying out the inspections, reviewing documents, regardless of the medium on which they are stored, obtaining copies and extracts thereof and other information necessary for carrying out an investigation. Obstruction of an investigation may result in a fine of up to 1 per cent of the total annual turnover.

Since 1 November 2020 the Law on Competition establishes joint and several liability for undertakings forming a single economic unit, as well as liability for legal and economic successors of undertakings so that companies could not escape fines through corporate re-structuring.