On 25 March 2020, the Bulgarian Competition Protection Commission (CPC) announced that it is participating in the Joint statement by the European Competition Network (ECN) on application of competition law during the coronavirus crisis.
The ECN states that the main objective of competition rules is to ensure a level playing field between companies, which is always relevant. Nevertheless, in the current crisis, the ECN will not actively intervene against necessary and temporary measures put in place to avoid shortages of supply of scarce products for consumers.
Similarly, the CPC understands that the emergency situation due to the crisis may create the need for companies to cooperate in order to guarantee the delivery and fair distribution of scarce products. If businesses have concerns regarding the compatibility of their cooperation initiatives with Bulgarian and EU competition law, they are invited to ask the CPC at any time for unofficial guidance, which they will receive in a timely manner.
The CPC, however, will not hesitate to take action against companies that use the current situation to create cartels in the market for products of high demand, and will take action against companies taking advantage of the current situation by abusing their dominant position. The CPC will closely monitor the pharmaceutical market and food industry in particular.
According to the CPC, setting maximum prices for products may be useful in the current climate to limit unjustified price hikes by distributors, but such practices should not amount to retail price maintenance.
The CPC asks all Bulgarians to assist by reporting suspicious increases in prices of essential products, product shortages or any retail practices during the crisis that could have a negative effect on either competitors or consumers. Reports and complaints can be sent to: email@example.com.
For more information on the competition law impact of COVID-19 and how it could affect your business, please contact your regular CMS source or local CMS experts: Nevena Radlova and Anna Tanova.
The article is co-authored by Kalina Krastanova, Trainee at CMS Sofia.