AdC sends Statement of Objections to the Portuguese Driving Schools Association (APEC)

Press release 12/2017
 
AdC sends Statement of Objections to the Portuguese Driving Schools Association (APEC)
 
 
 
The Portuguese Competition Authority (Autoridade da Concorrência - AdC) adopted a Statement of Objections against the Portuguese Driving Schools Association (APEC) and its president for fixing a minimum price on driving licenses: The alleged conduct had the potential to prevent, restrict or distort competition on the market of driving schools in the Greater Lisbon and Setúbal areas.
 
The fixing of minimum prices allegedly started on 28 September 2016 and was to be applied by about 170 driving schools in the area where the association operates.
 
The President of the association was also found to have committed an administrative offence for having known about the practice and taking no action to prevent it or put an end to it.
 
Decisions and price recommendations by business associations are likely to infringe competition law, as they may have an influence on the autonomy of its members in determining their commercial policy. Each company must have total autonomy in such matters for the market to be competitive.
 
Decisions by business associations such as price recommendations prevent members from setting more competitive prices. This, in turn, reinforces entry barriers and deprives the consumer of a wider choice and of the ability to negotiate in the acquisition of goods and services for the best price.
 
The AdC has, in the past, imposed fines on other associations for having adopted anti-competitive decisions. Business associations must refrain from interfering with the commercial freedom of their members.
 
The infringement of competition rules not only reduces consumer welfare, but also weakens the companies´ competitiveness, undermining the economy as a whole.
 
The AdC further notes that the adoption of the Statement of Objections does not influence the final outcome of the investigation. At this stage of the proceedings, the addressees have the right to a fair hearing, and the right of defence against the objections made and the penalty or penalties they are liable to incur.
 
The Statement of Objections was adopted on 27 July 2017.
 
On 17 January 2017, the AdC carried out dawn raids related to this case and obtained the evidence that substantiates the Statement of Objections.
 
In November 2016, the AdC published the Guide for Associations of Undertakings – With competition, everybody wins, to inform business associations on decisions and behaviours to be avoided to ensure compliance with competition rules. The guide is available online, in Portuguese, at www.concorrencia.pt.
 
  31 July 2017