The aim of the protection of market competition is primarily to create benefits for consumers and equal conditions for all entrepreneurs on the market, who, acting in accordance with the existing rules and competing on the market with the quality, price and innovation of their products and services, contribute to the overall development of the economy.
CCA dismisses complaints against telecoms – A1, HT and Telemach
The Croatian Competition Agency dismissed two initiatives for the initiation of the infringement proceeding against A1 Hrvatska d.o.o., Hrvatski Telekom d.d. and Telemach Hrvatska d.o.o. due to lack of standing to act with respect to the allegations of the complainants that the telecoms concerned concluded a prohibited agreement within the meaning of Article 8 of the Competition Act by agreeing on a joint price increase for their services. The initiatives made by two natural persons was received by the CCA on 2 June 2022. The initiatives were based on the announcements found in some media about the change in price for the provision of mobile services in the Republic of Croatia.
In line with its legal powers the CCA carried out a preliminary market investigation with the view to identifying sufficient circumstantial evidence as to whether the price increase during 2022 by three electronic communication providers was the result of their agreement or linked with other circumstances in the market.
Based on the complaint itself and the information that was gathered by the CCA, the CCA found that there had been a price increase by three telecom operators concerned during 2022. The operators explained that the price increase was the result of the increasing operation cost due to inflation in the period concerned.
The CCA analysis showed that the operators concerned sell bundles that to a certain extent differ in their contents. At the same time, the CCA found that during 2022 some of these bundles have been completely cancelled whereas others have changed certain elements they contained, such as the bundle minutes included, data traffic, text messages, IPTV services etc. What is more, the operators introduced new bundles and services and offered them to private and business accounts.
The CCA also found that the operators did not raise the prices of all bundles and services. The ones that have been increased have not been increased by the same amount or percentage.
Finally, the CCA took into account the regulated market concerned and specific obligations that are imposed on the operators pursuant to the rules on electronic communications in the part concerning the price monitoring and regulation, the price lists and general terms and conditions of the operators in the electronic communication market and/or services, that fall under the authority of the specific regulator – HAKOM (Croatian Regulatory Authority for Network Industries). Namely, the undertakings active on this market must inform HAKOM and their users prior to any change in the price of their services, in line with the rules regulating electronic communications in effect, which ensures price transparency.
The CCA found that the operators concerned changed the prices of certain services during 2022, however, the investigation did not point at any circumstantial evidence that would indicate any illegal contact between the competitors or agreement prior to the change of prices of their services.
Based on no circumstantial evidence that would indicate illegal contact or agreement between the undertakings concerned prior to the price increase in the area of electronic communication services, the CCA dismissed the complaints concerned and did not initiate infringement proceeding based on alleged distortion of competition in the form of a prohibited agreement against the undertakings concerned.