Cartel participants in Croatia receive fines

In January 2013, the Croatian Competition Agency, for the second time in its practice of imposing direct fines, fined four private companies involved in a cartel agreement.

The cartel was between four public transportation operators competing for licenses to transfer pupils to their schools in the northern part of Croatia (Međimurje).

Instead of competing for the licenses in public tenders, the four companies agreed to set prices for their services together, act together in potential public tenders for licenses, and to distribute licenses among themselves. The cartel arrangement was agreed in writing using the commonly used form of a ‘cooperation agreement’, and until the complete text of the decision is published, it remains unclear how the cartel was discovered.

The company, Presečki grupa, which operates in the wider region of the north-west Croatia, was found to be the initiator of the cartel. Its fine amounts to approximately €150,000. The remaining three undertakings were fined with fines in the region of between €9,000 and €15,000. The undertakings have 30 days to initiate administrative proceedings before an administrative court.

The fines issued in this case seem severe when compared to the first set of fines that the Competition Agency imposed against a chamber of commerce and bakers in a case dealing with the price fixing of bread, in the late 2012. In that case, the Competition Agency fined the chamber of commerce with a fine of app. €7,000, and the bakers with fines from between €70 and €200. The aim back then was to give a warning to undertakings, that were used to the inefficient, older system of fines.