Denmark: Competition and Consumer Authority
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2015 was a significant year for Danish competition. We dealt with a record number of merger cases and assisted the State Prosecutor for Serious Economic and International Crime (SEIC) in a number of important cases of infringement of the competition rules.
The institutional framework for the Danish competition authorities was improved. The Competition Council now has the responsibility for approving competition and market sector analyses and to decide which analyses to initiate. Work is in progress in three important areas: How do you secure a level playing field when public entities compete in commercial markets? How do we improve competition in the pharmaceutical sector, in particular in the wholesale markets? And finally, is competition in the market for Danish mortgages working properly, and, if not, what can be done to improve the functioning of the market?
The Competition Council now consists of seven members with expert skills in economics, law and consumer affairs and the Council continues to be independent from government. Until 2015 the Competition Council consisted of 18 members of which nine were recommended by trade organisations. In addition to the Competition Council, an advisory committee has been established, giving trade organisations access to suggest themes for analytics and discuss council decisions.
The Competition Council (including both the old and the new Council) rendered six decisions in 2015 concerning medical consultants, consortiums and chain cooperatives.
The authority also assisted the SEIC in one of the largest cases of cartels in Danish history against a group of companies in the construction industry. By the end of 2015, 22 fines were imposed on companies and 20 fines were imposed on leading employees. More cases against construction companies remain to be determined in this matter.
Five cases were referred to the SEIC in 2015. Among these was a case involving the franchisor Lely Nordic A/S. The infringement concerned fixed selling prices and market sharing with respect to milking robots. Both the franchisor Lely Nordic and three franchisees were fined for their involvement in the infringement. The Danish Competition and Consumer Authority took up the case on the basis of a number of tips. The Danish Competition Council ruled in the case in June 2014. In September 2015, the Danish Competition Appeals Tribunal upheld the ruling and the case was afterwards handed over to the State Prosecutor. In addition, a sizeable number of dawn raids were conducted in 2015.
We have dealt with 41 cases of mergers in 2015, which is 17 per cent higher than in 2014. Two of the mergers were approved with commitments. The remaining 39 mergers were all approved.
A planned merger between two of the largest businesses within the Danish food industry – slaughterhouse cooperatives Danish Crown and Tican – required a lot of manpower, including market studies, legal analysis, etc. The case was referred to us from the European Commission. The parties decided to abandon the merger before the Danish Competition and Consumer Authority had decided the case. In addition to the merger cases handled by the Danish Competition and Consumer Authority, the authority assisted the European Commission in the contemplated and later abandoned merger between the two large Danish tele companies Telia and Telenor.
In 2015, at the request of the Danish Competition and Consumer Authority the OECD prepared a thorough review of competition law and policy in Denmark in order to identify potential improvements to our legal and institutional framework and to assess the general development and application of competition law in Denmark.
Recommendations from the OECD to further improve the framework for competition policy are now being prepared for further assessment in the Danish government. The OECD also concluded that the Danish Competition and Consumer Authority is a well-managed and strategically focused competition authority with good access to the government and with a strong public message and profile.
In order to improve advocacy the Authority has continued to create new links to Danish media on various platforms. We have also made use of media campaigns and other events to increase awareness about competition law and policy. An example was the nationwide campaign ‘#ikkeimithus’ (‘#notinmyhouse’) where Danish companies were invited to publicly show that they support the fight against cartels.
In the area of public procurement the Authority has prepared the Danish Procurement Act implementing the Public Procurement Directive. The Procurement Act was adopted in October 2015 and entered into force in January 2016. The aim has been to improve competition within markets for public purchases of goods and services and to improve access to public tenders for SMVs. The Danish Competition and Consumer Authority is now focusing on guiding public authorities and private companies on how to apply the flexibility in the Act and on how to reduce transaction costs when they make use of public procurement. We have also launched the website www.bedreudbud.dk in order to actively share knowledge and answer questions from public and commercial entities in the area of public procurement.