"MAXIMA LT" INTERFERED WITH THE COMPETITION COUNCIL'S INSPECTION OF THE COMPANY'S PREMISES
The Competition Council acknowledged that during the inspection carried out in the premises of "Maxima LT", the officials of the institution were not able to fulfil the requirements to review and obtain the necessary information for investigating the suspected violation. A fine of 10,000 Euros was imposed on the retail company for violating the Law on the Prohibition of Unfair Practices of Retailers (LPUPR).
In November 2022, the officials authorised by the Competition Council, in the investigation of "Maxima LT's" possible prohibited practices in relation to suppliers, conducted an inspection of the company's premises. All employees were informed of their obligation to comply with the officers' requirements during the inspection and were made aware of the potential consequences. However, one employee of "Maxima LT" sent a message to the colleague instructing him to delete a certain folder of documents from the shared drive, and this was carried out.
Later, following the instructions of the authorized officers of the institution, "Maxima LT" restored a copy of the shared drive.
"Responsibility for the actions of employees that obstruct the inspection by representatives of the Competition Council falls upon the employer; it is not necessary to prove that such actions caused damage to the ongoing investigation. In this specific case, it is sufficient for the Authority to establish the fact that, upon the instruction of an employee of the trading company, a folder of documents was deleted, without the need to prove that such data would have been useful for the investigation," stated Deputy Chairman of the Competition Council, Elonas Šatas.
He emphasised that unexpected inspections of the premises of suspected retailers carried out by the officials of the Competition Council allow to collect data, which is often one of the most important pieces of evidence of a possible infringement of the LPUPR. Consequently, acts of obstruction by not complying with the requests of the authorised officials to review and obtain information may prevent the collection of evidence and the determination of an infringement.
Having assessed all the circumstances, the Competition Council found that "Maxima LT" did not comply with the requirements of the officials of the institution to review and obtain the information necessary for the investigation of the infringement. As a result, a fine of 10,000 Euros, which is the maximum amount stipulated by the LPUPR, was imposed on the trading company.
The decision may be appealed to the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court within 30 days from the date of its delivery.
According to the LPUPR, economic entities are obliged not to obstruct the authorized officers of the Competition Council from conducting inspections, reviewing documents, obtaining copies and extracts, and accessing any information in any form necessary for the investigation. A violator who fails to comply with the officers' demands may be subject to a fine of up to 10,000 Euros.
The investigation regarding possible prohibited actions of the company "Maxima LT" in relation to suppliers, which involved the inspection of the company's premises, was suspended by the Competition Council in April 2023, to avoid harming the interests of the suppliers.