Bulgaria: from the enforcer
Tel: +359 2 9356 100
Tel: +359 2 9356 101
Tel: +359 2 9356 105
Tel: +359 2 9356 102
Tel: +359 2 9356 106
Tel: +359 2 9356 107
Tel: +359 2 9356 103
Tel: +359 2 9356 104
Tel: +359 2 9356 117
Acting Director, Antitrust and Concentrations
Tel: +359 2 9356 151
Director, Competition Law and Policy
Tel: +359 2 9356 177
Director, Unfair Competition and Abuse of Stronger Bargaining Position
Tel: +359 2 9356 165
Director, Public Procurement and Concessions
Tel: +359 2 9356 142
Questions and answers
How long is the head of agency’s term of office?
The chairperson of the Commission on Protection of Competition (CPC) is appointed by the National Assembly for a seven-year term of office. He or she cannot be re-elected immediately for a further term.
When is he or she due for reappointment?
The chairperson of the CPC was elected by the National Assembly on 29 June 2016; the decision of the National Assembly for their election came into force on 5 July 2016, with its promulgation in the State Gazette. Accordingly, the seven-year term of office expires on 5 July 2023.
Which posts within the organisation are political appointments?
The chairperson, the deputy chairperson and the members of the CPC are appointed by the National Assembly.
What is the agency’s annual budget?
The annual budget of the CPC for 2021 is €2.94 million.
How many staff are employed by the agency?
There are 117 employees at the agency, including the elected positions (ie, the seven members of the commission).
To whom does the head of the agency report?
The commission submits an annual report on its activities to the National Assembly.
Do any industry-specific regulators have competition powers?
No. The CPC has exclusive competences for enforcing the Law on Protection of Competition (LPC).
If so, how do these relate to your role?
The competition authority works in cooperation with the regulatory agencies in numerous matters, such as market structure, market definition, draft sector-specific legislation, and so on.
Do politicians have any right to overrule or disregard the decisions of the authority?
Does the law allow non-competition aims to be considered when taking decisions?
Which body hears appeals against the agency’s decisions? Is there any form of judicial review beyond that mentioned above? If so, which body conducts this?
Decisions of the CPC are appealable before the Administrative Court – the Sofia district at first instance, whose decision can be appealed before the Supreme Administrative Court (SAC) – a panel of three judges, whose decision is final. For speed and efficiency, the legislature provides that the CPC’s decisions under the Law on Public Procurement and the Law on Concessions may only be appealed once, before the SAC (a panel of three judges), whose ruling is final.
Has the authority ever blocked a proposed merger?
Yes. The CPC has blocked four proposed mergers.
Has the authority ever imposed conditions on a proposed merger?
Yes. The CPC has imposed conditions on a proposed merger in several cases.
Has the authority conducted a Phase II investigation in any of its merger filings?
Yes. The clear distinguishing of two phases in the procedure for control of concentrations was introduced in 2008 with the adoption of the new Law on Protection of Competition (LPC). Since then, the CPC has conducted a Phase II investigation with regard to several mergers.
Has the authority ever pursued a company based outside your jurisdiction for a cartel offence?
The proceedings were initiated against three undertakings belonging to the same economic group and registered respectively in Ireland, UK and the Netherlands. They were all active on the market for alcohol beverages wholesale. Their agreement with a Bulgarian undertaking active on the same relevant market and a plaintiff in the proceedings was found to restrict access to sources of supply of original products. The parties used their registered mark to impose the terms of the agreement to the plaintiff and to discourage him from parallel import of the beverages. The agreement was found to be a long-lasting strategy of the undertakings to isolate the national market.
The proceedings were initiated against the Association of the Research Based Pharmaceutical Manufacturers in Bulgaria and five of its members in relation to the application of some of the provisions of its Code of Ethics. Three of the companies were registered respectively in Great Britain, Switzerland and Germany. In its decision, the CPC found that the anticompetitive effects were the result of the national legal framework and hence no infringement had been committed.
The proceedings under article 9 of the LPC were initiated against the association of heat accounting undertakings in Sofia and 13 of its members. Later, the CPC initiated proceedings against their parent companies: six undertakings registered in Germany, two undertakings registered in Denmark and one undertaking registered in Switzerland. The CPC investigated whether Sofia’s heat and power supplier and share distribution undertakings fix prices for the reading of the heat-flow gauges. The practice was coordinated within the Association. Furthermore, the contractual relations between undertakings suppliers of share distribution devices and heat accounting undertakings were supposed to create barriers for the use of competitors’ devices by their exclusive nature. In its decision, the CPC found that no infringement had been committed.
Do you operate a leniency programme? Whom should potential applicants contact?
Yes, the commission operates a leniency programme. The LPC provides for immunity from fines, as well as reduction of fines. The leniency policy is introduced by article 101 of the LPC. Potential applicants may contact the antitrust directorate on +359 2 9356 210, +359 2 9356 138 (or by fax on +359 2 9356 153).
Is there a criminal enforcement track? If so, who is responsible for it?
No. In Bulgaria, cartel activity is not criminalised. The CPC is not empowered to impose criminal sanctions.
Are there any plans to reform the competition law?
When did the last review of the law occur?
The latest amendment of the Law on Protection of Competition entered into force in February 2021. It transposed Directive (EU) 2019/1 of the European Parliament and of the European Council of 11 December 2018, to empower the competition authorities of the Member States to be more effective enforcers and to ensure the proper functioning of the internal market.
Do you have a separate economics team? If so please give details.
Has the authority conducted a dawn raid?
Yes. In accordance with article 50 of the LPC, the CPC has power to conduct dawn raids and uses this power.
Has the authority imposed penalties on officers or directors of companies for offences committed by the company?
In accordance with article 102 (1) of the LPC, natural persons who have assisted in the commitment of infringements of the provisions of the law, where the act does not constitute a crime, shall be liable to a fine of from 500 to 50,000 leva. The CPC has imposed such fines.
What are the pre-merger notification thresholds, if any, for the buyer and seller involved in a merger?
In accordance with article 24 of the LPC, the pre-merger notification threshold for the combined turnover of all undertakings participating in the concentration in the territory of the Republic of Bulgaria in the preceding year is 25 million leva. There is also a second cumulative criterion: the total turnover of each of at least two undertakings parties to the concentration or the total turnover of the undertaking to be acquired on Bulgarian territory for the preceding financial year should be over 3 million leva.
Are there any restrictions on minority investments?
What discounts are available to companies that cooperate with cartel investigations?
Apart from the full exemption of the sanction the reductions for the following leniency applicants envisaged in the leniency programme are as follows: from 30 to 50 per cent for the first undertaking, 20 to 30 per cent for the second and 10 to 20 per cent for every following undertaking.
Does the authority conduct criminal investigations and prosecutions for cartel activity? If not, is there another authority in the country that does?
In Bulgaria, cartel activity is not criminalised.
Bulgaria: from the enforcer's competition economists
Questions and answers
How many economists do you employ?
The Bulgarian Commission on Protection of Competition (CPC) employs 16 economists who work in specialised directorates.
Do you have a separate economics unit, or ‘bureau’?
Do you have a chief economist?
To whom does the chief economist report?
How many economists have a PhD in industrial economics?
Does the agency include a specialist economist on every case team? If not, why not?
Every case team includes at least one economist.
Is the economics unit a ‘second pair of eyes’ during cases – is it one of the agency’s checks and balances? If not, why not?
The Antitrust and Concentrations Directorate conducts these types of analyses in the cases while the draft decisions on cases are consulted with the Competition Law and Policy Directorate, and when the economic analysis is of significant importance for the case the economists from this directorate are also included in the consultation process.
How much economic work is outsourced? What type of work is outsourced?
In accordance with article 53 of the Law on Protection of Competition, if, to clarify any aspects related to the proceedings, the CPC needs special expertise, it may, upon request of the parties or on its own initiative, by a ruling appoint the expertise to an external expert. Such expertise is used when necessary, but most often for calculation of the cost of a product or a service to determine whether there is predatory pricing or infringement of the unfair competition prohibition against sale to the domestic market of significant quantities of goods over an extended period of time at prices lower than the cost of their production and marketing, with the purpose of unfairly soliciting clients.