According to a recent press release (in Turkish) the TCA has opened an antitrust investigation on Booking.com B.V. and its Turkish subsidiary Bookingdotcom Destek Hizmetleri Limited Şirketi. According to the press release, the main reason of the investigation is the “best price guarantee” policy of the world’s most popular online reservation portal, which is examined under the Article 4 and 6 of the Act on The Protection of Competition no 4054, which are on anti-competitive agreements and abuse of dominance, respectively.
Booking.com was recently investigated by the national antitrust authorities of Sweden, Italy and France but the investigations were closed in April in a coordinated approach of the authorities by accepting the commitments of booking.com, which were found to be dissatisfying by the hotel industry of Europe.
According to Turkish Competition Authority’s (TCA) press release (English version is here) the Turkish Petroleum Rafineries Co. (Tüpraş), the largest enterprise in Turkey was fined by the TCA TL 412 million (approx. USD 200 million ) for abusing its dominance by “pricing and contractual practices ”. According to the press release it was also decided to send official opinions to Tüpraş on obligation to stop the practices that caused the breach, and to relevant public authorities within the sector on fixing the failure of the price regulation mechanism in the industry in favor of consumers.
The fine of TL 412 million is the highest fine faced by a single company in the TCA’s history, almost equal to 2 times of the fine on Garanti Bank which was the record holder with TL 213 million fine in 2013 for participating in anticompetitive agreements among a number of banks-mentioned in a related post.
Tüpraş, owned by one of the largest conglomerates in Turkey Koç Holding since it was privatized in 2006, is the company controlling all of the refining capacity in Turkey with four oil refineries having processed 22 million tons of crude oil creating USD 26 billion net sales just in 2012 according to its 2012 annual report.
According to the press release while Tüpraş was fined for breach of Article 6 of the Act on The Protection of Competition no 4054, which is on abuse of dominance, it was decided that it and its joint venture Opet (a petroleum distributor company in Turkey) did not breach the Article 4 of the Act on The Protection of Competition no 4054, which is on anticompetitive agreements.
The details of the decision and how the breach was interpreted by the Turkish Competition Board will be appear in the reasoned decision which will -probably- be held here as soon as released.
Dear Mr. Patrick Byrne had left a comment concerning Turkish Mobile Phone Market. I share his comment below. If you have an explanation or objection, please feel free to join in:
” The incredibly high level of charges for mobile phone users and for mobile data download in Turkey when compared to other countries in Europe would lead one to assume that there was no competitition in Turkey. Yet there are several mobile carriers. Perhaps one could think that Turkey is a small market for mobile phones and that the benefits of large scale delivery did not yet apply here. Yet, Turkey is one of the largest mobile phone markets in the world. In the light of this, the obvious suspicion arises that the existing carriers are involved in some kind of cartel through which they are fixing prices together and only allowing marginal competition for presentation purposes.
Perhaps there is another explanation. Anyone out there have one?”
Turkish Competition Board released the long-awaited Guidelines on Horizontal Cooperation Agreements (Horizontal Agreements Guidelines) and the Block Exemption Communiqué Concerning Specialization Agreements on 26 June 2013.
The Horizontal Agreement Guidelines were in fact very similar to the EU guidelines on horizontal cooperation agreements while former ones are adapted to Turkish anti-trust practice and relevant legislation. Those guidelines have been also demanded by and their absence has been subject to criticisms from the European Commission in the progress reports (2012 here) saying that “…Turkey still needs to align with the acquis on horizontal cooperation agreements…” for a couple of years.
Those guidelines set the basic criteria for evaluation of non-vertical cooperation agreements especially R&D agreements, joint production agreements, joint purchasing agreements, commercialization agreements and -lastly- standardization agreements from the competition law perspective. The guidelines also lay a stress and have a specific part on information exchange among competitors.
It is expected that those guidelines to be welcomed by the undertakings and anti-trust law practitioners since they set the basic principles of appraising whether an agreement or information exchange among competitors breaches the law or not or may be subject to exemption. The guidelines have also quasi-de-minimis thresholds (while there is no any de-minimis regime in Turkish competition law) saying that specific agreements between competitors having less than that market share -like %15 market share for joint purchasing agreements- are not expected to have a negative affect on competition as a result of lack of market power while it is reserved that the restriction of competition by object would breach the law irrespective of an effect exists or not.
On the other hand the Block Exemption Communiqué Concerning Specialization Agreements provide an exemption for the specialization agreements, like unilateral or reciprocal production agreements, among competitors as long as the total market share of the parties is below 25% and some other conditions are met.
If you are regularly checking out our blog you may have noticed that we have been away for some time. That wasn’t because we are lazy but 2 out of 3 members of our team were busy with moving abroad. Yes you heard it right. Harun now resides in Ann Arbor, Michigan and Ökmen is in New York City. While Harun taking a long vacation (about 2 years) Ökmen will be studying Public Administration at Columbia University also for 2 years.
So now the burden is mine to fill these pages with posts and news. I’ll be doing my best to keep you guys updated. Keep following 🙂