The Competition Authority alerts business associations to refrain from making public declarations harming competition
On August 9, 2018, the Competition Authority commenced infringement proceedings against a bakery association (Associação dos Industriais de Panificação, Pastelaria e Similares do Norte) (AIPAN) due to declarations made by the President of the association related to the price of bread.
These declarations raised competition concerns, because there could be consequences for free competition, and they could affect the independence of the members and companies.
In these declarations, the President mentioned a future increase in the price of bread. As the Competition Authority saw it, “the mere reference to the trend the prices should follow on a particular market, especially an increase, could be subject to influencing how economic agents define their prices and commercial policies”. As these declarations could encourage prices agreements, they were subject to harming consumers.
It was the Association itself that proposed and undertook, in respect of the Competition Authority, not to make any more declarations of this nature and to clarify for its members that they were completely free to set the prices they deemed appropriate.
The Competition Authority concluded that the commitments assumed by AIPAN were capable of removing the competition concerns raised and of protecting consumers. This being the case, in June 2019, it decided to close the proceedings in acceptance of these undertakings.
It is not common for the Competition Authority to accept these types of commitments, especially in relation to an entity that has already been convicted in the past of performing identical practices. This action of the Competition Authority suggests a greater pedagogical intent and a lesser tendency to censure.
During these infringement proceedings, the Competition Authority warned other business associations not to make declarations capable of leading to coordination actions by their associates, as this coordination involves a practice restricting competition and harms consumers.