The WhatsApp conversations of some employees responsible for sales were the main evidence that brought fines of 123 million lei from the Competition Council to Samsung, eMag, Flanco and Altex for fixing the prices of televisions and mobile phones. “The investigation confirmed a vertical agreement, in which the manufacturing company’s policy was not to lower the prices of its products below a certain price,” said Daniela Bădilă, general director of the Competition Council, on Tuesday.
Conversations on whatsappPhoto: Rafael Henrique / Dreamstime.com
According to her, everything started from a report made anonymously on the platform of competition whistleblowers, almost 2 years ago.
- “What was reported to us through the platform and through the documents made available gave us enough clues to start the investigation. Unannounced inspections were made and data collected from the 4 companies. As a novelty, the evidence here consisted mainly of WhatsApp conversations because mobile phones were also inspected.
- We did not discover a horizontal collusion between the 3 traders, but a vertical collusion between the manufacturer and the three traders was confirmed. The agreement aimed at a greater share in the TV area,” said Daniela Bădilă, general director of the Competition Council, on Tuesday.
She said that in this deal “people responsible for the sales side were involved.”
- “An employee, even if he does not have decision-making functions, if he participates in such agreements, the company is liable,” warned the director of the Competition Council.
Chirițoiu: The understanding was “not to give discounts greater than…”
The President of the Competition Council, Bogdan Chirițoiu, stated that all 4 sanctioned companies admitted their anti-competitive acts and benefited from the reduction of the fines.
- “The understanding was like ‘don’t give more discounts than…’ And then it’s hard to estimate the impact. Discounts were applied to acknowledge the facts”, said Bogdan Chirițoiu.
Daniela Bădilă, director general in the Competition Council, explained that the fines are based on the turnover, at which they start from a basic level at which discounts are applied if that company admits the act and then mitigating circumstances are also applied.
“The discount for admitting the act is 30% if it comes within a certain period of time from the initiation of the investigation. All 4 companies have admitted the deed”, said Daniela Bădilă.
What fines did the 4 companies receive and for what irregularities
Competition Council announced Thursday that it sanctioned the companies SEROM (Samsung Electronics Romania), Dante International SA (eMAG), Altex Romania SRL and Flanco Retail SA with 123 million lei “for participating in an anti-competitive agreement on the market for the sale of televisions and mobile phones, in the period 2019-2021” .
The fines were applied as follows:
- SERUM – 75,441,655 lei
- Dante International – 20,311,427 lei
- Altex Romania – 21,376,113 lei
- Flanco Retail – 6,223,580 lei
The anti-competitive agreement consisted in the fixing of the resale prices of certain products by SEROM and each of its trading partners, namely Altex, Dante and Flanco, which led to the limitation of the ability of the three retailers to independently set their resale prices .
Thus, competition at the retail level was restricted, with an effect on consumers, who paid higher prices for certain types of televisions and mobile phones. Televisions and mobile phones are some of the most important electronic and communication products
Photo source: Rafael Henrique / Dreamstime.com