AdC advises business associations to avoid public statements that may harm competition

Press Release 09/2019
  
AdC advises business associations to avoid public statements that may harm competition
 
 
The Portuguese Competition Authority (Autoridade da Concorrência - AdC) advises business associations to avoid making public statements about prices of goods and services, or other conditions of trade, that may promote or enable coordinated behaviour by their members, a practice harmful to competition and damaging to consumer interests.
 
This advice arises in the context of the AdC decision that obliges the Northern Association of Manufacturers of Bread, Pastries and Similar Products (AIPAN) to commit to making clear to their members that they have full freedom and autonomy to set prices, thereby minimizing the potential restrictive effect of statements made by the president of the Association relative to bread prices.
 
The AdC conducted an investigation, beginning August 9, 2018, that identified a set of competition concerns related to statements made by the president of AIPAN in 2018, inasmuch as they could obstruct the free play of competition and lessen the autonomy of members, breadmakers, and so harm consumers.
 
With the aim of responding to the competition concerns raised by the AdC, AIPAN presented, on April 2, 2019, a set of commitments not to make any statements nor provide any information regarding prices and other trade conditions that might in any manner promote or permit the coordination of behaviour by Association members, as well as to inform AIPAN members, by means of an information letter, that prices and other trade conditions are to be defined by individual members in total autonomy and independence.
 
At the end of the public consultation, which gave any interested party the opportunity to state its position, the AdC considered that the commitments are sufficient to deal with the competition concerns that had been raised and to safeguard consumer interests. 
 
In accordance with the Competition Law, the AdC may accept commitments proposed by parties affected by proceedings, if they are sufficient to eliminate the potential harmful effects that the concerned practices implied for competition.
 
In this regard, the AdC took a decision to close the proceedings, by means of the acceptance of commitments and the imposition of conditions, on June 6, 2019.
The AdC will monitor the application of the commitments made by AIPAN.
 
The AdC has conducted information sessions at trade associations, with their management and supervisory boards and with association members, advising on how to avoid infringing the Competition Law.
 
Trade associations are particularly vulnerable to competition law infringements when they include in their composition all or a large portion of the competitors in a given sector of activity. Effectively, decisions by associations of enterprises that may alter the free functioning of the market, when they promote or facilitate uniform behaviour by their members and possible third parties, may contravene the Competition Law.
 
The AdC produced, and has available on its website, a Competition Guide specifically directed to Trade Associations, that may be consulted here (in Portuguese only).
 
 Lisbon, June 11, 2019