Earlier this week, the Spanish Competition Authority (CNMC) published an overview of its 2015 activities and its forecast of activities for 2016.
In 2015, the CNMC imposed a total of €519 million’s worth of fines on companies that were found to have participated in cartel activities. This is the highest amount ever imposed since competition law was introduced in Spain. The highest sanctions were fines worth €131 million imposed on certain car manufacturers, followed by a €98 million fine imposed on undertakings in the waste-management sector, and a €88 million fine imposed on companies operating in the raw cow’s milk sector.
In addition to cartels, the CNMC has also investigated and fined companies for other types of breaches of competition law, for example, for entering into agreements restricting competition in the telecommunications sector and in the pay-per-view football market.
Petrol operators have also been targeted by the CNMC. For instance, Repsol, CEPSA and BP were fined €8.5 million, €2.5 million and €750 thousand each for indirectly fixing retail prices through provisions in their fuel supply contracts with petrol station owners. In a separate investigation, the CNMC found that Repsol, Cepsa, Disa, Galp and Meroil had engaged in anti-competitive non-aggression pacts, price fixing and exchanges of information, and imposed a total fine of €32 million on these companies.
As regards the non-compliance with commitments for merger clearance, the Spanish watchdog imposed fines in the context of two TV channel mergers. Thus, Mediaset was fined €3 million for failing to comply with the commitments that it gave in the context of the Telecinco/Cuatro merger and Atresmedia was fined €2.8 million for non-compliance with the commitments given in the context of the Antena3/La Sexta merger.
In 2015, a total of 93 merger transactions were cleared, which is higher than the 84 transactions cleared in 2014 and the 59 transactions cleared in 2013.
Turning to ongoing investigations, the CNMC has carried out dawn raids in 10 different sectors, ranging from the construction products sector to the cash transportation and handling sector.
The competition watchdog also announced its key targets for 2016. The authority intends to focus on cartels relating to public tender offers, as it has detected irregularities in certain sectors (i.e. the industrial-bearing market and school transport sector).
The CNMC will also focus on applying the rules regarding the personal responsibility of natural persons for breaches of competition law, as established in Article 63.2 of the Spanish Competition Act 15/2007. Finally, the CNMC will also monitor the application of the rules prohibiting companies that have been fined for anti-competitive conduct from entering into contracts with public administrations, as established in the State Contracting Act (Royal Decree 3/2011) read in light of the amendments introduced thereto on 22 October 2015.