Monday, 25 July 2022

Press Release – Fine to the companies of the ferry connection Igoumenitsa - Lefkimmi Corfu

Subject: HCC no. 793/2022 Decision on the ex officio investigation of the General Directorate of Competition in the ferry connection Igoumenitsa - Lefkimmi in accordance with article 29A of Law 3959/2011 and HCC Decision No. 704/2020.

The Hellenic Competition Commission (HCC), by its unanimous Decision (no. 793/2022) decided in plenary on July 25, 2022, based on the relevant Statement of Objections (SO) pursuant to par. 35 of its Decision no 704/2020, on the acceptance of the relevant Settlement Submissions requested by companies "LEFKIMMI LINES SHIPPING COMPANY", (ii) "MACEDONIA IV SHIPPING COMPANY" and iii) "SARRIS KERKYRAIKES GRAMMES SHIPPING COMPANY" operating on the Igoumenitsa-Lefkimmi ferry connection.

For the purposes of the investigation, the General Directorate of Competition carried out, on-site inspections (down raids), at the headquarters, on the 30th of July 2019, of the above companies. Furthermore, in order to evaluate the documents collected, depositions were taken from the legal representatives and letters, requests of information-questionnaires were sent to the parties involved. 

Based on the relevant framework, the three companies LEFKIMMI LINES, MACEDONIA IV and SARRIS, for which evidence capable of establishing a violation of art. 1 of Law 3959/2011, was collected, expressed their interest for the possibility of subjecting their case to the Settlement Procedure and submitted relevant requests, in accordance with what is provided in para. 30 of the HCC Announcement on the Settlement Procedure.

Following these submissions, the HCC unanimously decided, in its meeting of 15.03.2022, that this case is relevant and may fall within the Settlement Procedure, as it meets the criteria provided for. 

The HCC took into account, in particular, the sincere intention of the interested parties to settle, the number of the settlement applicants that requested to be submitted to the settlement process (and which concerned all companies involved), the nature of the infringement in question as a serious horizontal anti-competitive collusion  (collusion of a cartel nature), and the expected procedural efficiency, which was estimated to be significantly large in this case.

The relevant market in the present case is the provision of coastal shipping services referred to a local ferry connection. The relevant geographic market is the Igoumenitsa-Lefkimmi ferry connection. 

According to the HCC decision, the companies LEFKIMMI LINES, SARRIS and MACEDONIA IV joined a plan to determine prices and markets, through individual agreements and actions, expressing their will to behave altogether in a certain way, participating in a horizontal anti-competitive agreement according the meaning of article 1 of Law 3959/2011.

The Companies participated in a concerted practice of setting prices and allocating markets, defining the framework of their joint action in relation to their commercial policy (ticket discounts and the scheduled routes) that they would run on the Lefkimmi-Igoumenitsa ferry connection, in the context of which they proactively reduced the uncertainty entailed by an autonomous business behavior and, by extension, competitive behavior. The above agreement between the Companies on setting prices and routes was also implemented.

The HCC, by virtue of par. 35 of HCC Plenary Decision no. 704/2020, accepted, in accordance with the relevant rationale, the Settlement Proposals submitted by the companies a) LEFKIMMI LINES SHIPPING COMPANY, b) SARRIS KERKYRAIKES GRAMMES SHIPPING COMPANY and c) MACEDONIA IV SHIPPING COMPANY, and :

Found that the parties concerned have violated Article 1 of Law 3959/2011 due to their participation in a prohibited horizontal concerted practice as briefly described in the SO in the context of the relevant Settlement Proposals.

Orders the parties concerned in the above infringement to cease, if they have not already done so, and refrain in the future from the violations of Articles 1 of Law 3959/2011 found in the SO. 

It is noted, however, that the Companies stated in the submitted Settlement Proposals that regardless of how their services are promoted and sold (e.g. through an internet platform that will not be managed and/or controlled by any of the participating parties) , their commercial and pricing policy will be done autonomously from their competitors.

The HCC imposed reduced fines, due to the dispute settlement procedure for the infringement found, based on the reasoning of the Decision, of article 1 of law 3959/2011, a) to LEFKIMMI LINES SHIPPING COMPANY total fine, 44,069 euros b) to SARRIS KERKYRAIKES GRAMMES SHIPPING COMPANY total fine, 41,974 euros and c) to MACEDONIA IV SHIPPING COMPANY total fine, of 49,193 euros. 

Total Fines 135,236 euros.

It is noted that the specific Decision regarding the ferry line Igoumenitsa - Lefkimmi comes as a result of the ex officio investigation by the HCC and Decision no. 759/2021 which concerned the Igoumenitsa ferry line with the Port of Corfu.

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