This autumn was certainly marked by the increased enforcement activities of the Serbian competition authority since it initiated five investigations in the past six weeks. The alleged anti-competitive activities encompass all three main pillars of competition law: merger control, restrictive agreements, and abuse of dominant position.
Gun-Jumping Investigations on the Rise
In the merger control area, the authority continued to closely monitor public sources, the company’s registries, and major headlines, which resulted in three gun-jumping investigations. The first two concern mergers implemented on the market for private security services, where the acquirer in both cases, the company Dobergard acquired two companies active on the same market. The investigations were initiated since the authority reviewed the publicly available financial statements of the parties to the concentration and reasonably assumed that the merger filing thresholds were met in those cases.
More importantly, the third investigation involves an acquisition of a target company registered outside of Serbia – the first investigation of this kind. The authority discovered the transaction by review of the headlines published on the website of Delta Holding (a parent company of the acquirer Ananas e-commerce), stating that Ananas e-commerce acquired the company Vebspot, registered in North Macedonia (and indirectly its two websites for e-commerce). The Serbian competition authority also searched the publicly available data on the websites of the Macedonian company’s registry and the Macedonian competition authority. The authority considers that the merger filing obligation was triggered by Delta Holding, based on Delta Holding’s consolidated financial statements for 2021.
Another set of Sectorial Inquiries Leads to Investigations: Consumer Electronics and Food Delivery Digital Platforms
Relatively recent antitrust investigations of the consumer electronics market turned the authority’s eye to investigating whether the retail prices of Apple products are a result of unlawful market coordination. In that regard, the authority is assessing whether the wholesaler implemented resale price maintenance, which could have, to the authority’s current assumptions, ultimately resulted in almost identical retail prices in Serbia, the consequence of which (also to the authority) may be the higher prices than the prices of Apple products in the neighbouring countries. This is not the first time that the Serbian competition authority is comparing the retail prices in Serbia with the retail prices of the same products in the neighbouring EU or non-EU countries.
Finally, during an ongoing sectorial inquiry of the market of digital platforms for the sale and delivery of mainly restaurant food and other products, the authority received an anonymous tip regarding the business practices introduced by Glovo (a member of the Delivery Hero group of companies). Besides the tip, the authority also collected the agreements where Glovo was, presumably, suspected of introducing exclusivity payments for restaurant partners. Additionally, the authority claims that Glovo holds a dominant position on the said market, following its acquisition of one of the largest delivery platforms Donesi in 2021. Thus, according to the authority, the alleged practices introduced by Glovo may constitute an abuse of the dominant position, which will be the focus of the authority during the procedure.
All the alleged infringers may be exposed to a fine of up to 10% of the turnover generated in the Republic of Serbia in 2021. The authority may also impose other measures, such as unwinding a merger and imposing of various structural or behavioural measures.
The information in this document does not constitute legal advice on any particular matter and is provided for general informational purposes only.