Relaxing whilst doing Competition Law is not an Oxymoron

Archive for November 29th, 2012

Groundhog day, self-restraint, and shooting one’s own foot

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I’ll give you a sneak peek into how the editorial process of this blog works:

I frankly wasn’t planning on posting anything on the blog for the rest of the rather busy week. But then I  attended a conference, and an idea spurred to mind: why not write a post on how a few -not all-competition conferences (topics and speakers) are starting to make us feel inside a time loop, sort of like in the Groundhog day movie…

Maybe not, I thought later; perhaps some of the usual suspects frequent speakers in the conference market wouldn’t like it (there are categories among these: (i) those who never refuse invitations out of politeness -which I find laudable- and who are also tired of speaking always about the same stuff, however convenient; and (ii) those who pay for speaking slots -which I understand less- and who wouldn’t appreciate the comment). Moreover, we had also bragged about how we would do something different announced our own conference and have not yet arranged it, so it’s probably wise not to write on this. So, as you see, I’m not.   😉

But now Gianni de Stefano (from Latham and antitrustitalia) sends us a GCR piece titled: “Spain fines antitrust complainant” joking that we should write about it. And he’s right, we could not let this pass by without a post…

You see, I don’t want to write too much Spain-related stuff, and so a few days ago I resisted the temptation of writing anything about prioritization and allocation of resources when the CNC sanctioned 5 distributors of Magic cards with 7,000 euros (one party received a 148 euro fine, another a 748 euro fine; the highest fine was 3,424 euros). I won’t comment on this either (as if it was necessary…). But this silence exhausted my self-restraint capacity.

So let’s focus on yesterday’s news. What happened is the following: the association of canned fish producers [yes, those responsible for the death of the sole responsible of Spain’s victory in the 2010 World Cup:  Octopus Paul –evidence of the murder available here-] lodged a complaint against mussels producers alleging that the latter had entered into price-fixing agreements. The CNC sanctioned mussels producers with 1.7 million. So far so good (except for mussels producers). The fact of the matter is that within the framework of the investigation the CNC discovered that the complainants had themselves decided to react to the cartel by agreeing on a collective boycott. And now the complainants have received a 2.1 million fine.  Once again, no comment. [Query: could you complain about a cartel and ask for leniency regarding another reprisal cartel?]

Actually, there’s one comment. If the accusations are true there is nothing to object to the CNC’s decision. But I have been involved in a few other cases where the complainants were also the instigators of the agreements complained of, but they weren’t sanctioned. Curiously enough, in all of these cases the complainants were not companies, but individuals, labor unions or public bodies. There is probably a reason for this: sanctioning companies has the political advantage that when they get pi.. crossed they don’t do this

P.S. The food sector has given us so much food for jokes thought that the European Commission’s statement that there are no particular competition problems (after having set up a task force, drafted this report, and done all this) was a surprise to us.

Written by Alfonso Lamadrid

29 November 2012 at 1:34 pm