Cyprus: Commission for the Protection of Competition

The Cyprus Commission for the Protection of Competition (CPC) is the competent authority for applying competition rules in the Republic of Cyprus. In this regard, there are two applicable laws relating to antitrust enforcement and mergers and acquisitions control:

  • the Protection of Competition Laws of 2008 No. 13(I)/2008, as amended by Law No. 41(I)/2014 (the Competition Law); and
  • the Control of Concentrations between Undertakings Law of 2014, No. 83(I)/2014 (the Concentrations Law).

The CPC is an independent administrative authority. The Commission comprises the Chairperson and four members who are appointed by the Council of Ministers based on a proposal from the Minister of Energy, Commerce and Industry. The term of office of the Chairperson and Members is five years and can be renewed. The Chairperson and members serve on a full-time basis. The Commission is assisted by its Service. The staff of the Service are members of the Public Service and are appointed as per the Public Service Law and procedures.

The CPC, being an administrative body, is bound by administrative law and as such all decisions of the CPC can be appealed to the Administrative Court (as of 1 January 2016; previously the Supreme Court of Cyprus would hear appeals) and be reviewed by the Supreme Court.

Between April 2018 and March 2019, the CPC issued 72 decisions, 40 of which concerned examination of notifications of concentrations between undertakings, issuing clearance decisions to 36 of them in Phase I and to one of them in Phase II on the basis of certain terms and conditions, one of them for infringement of Merger Law and two decisions relating to notifications that were held not to fall under the Merger Law.

The Commission also issued 32 decisions under the Competition Law; 11 of them concerned a non infringement conclusion and two of them concerned the rejection of the issuance of interim orders and 6 of them concerned findings of infringements.

In one decision the Commission imposed on the following undertakings a total administrative fine amounting to €1,155,593 for the infringement of sections 3 (1) (a) and (c) of the Competition Law:

  • Mattheos Ioannou Ready Mix Concrete Ltd;
  • C.Kythreotis Skyrodema Ltd;
  • Skyramix Ltd;
  • Athinodorou & Poullas Super Beton Ltd;
  • Top Mix Concrete Ltd;
  • I & S Kritonis Limited;
  • Betoman Limited;
  • Alfa Concrete Public Company Ltd through its financial successor Alfa Beton Ltd; and
  • Psaroudis Beton Limited.

More specifically, the Commission, following the completion of a preliminary investigation and having evaluated the evidence before it, on 18 July 2018 issued a decision (Decision No: 29/2018) against the abovementioned undertakings. The subject matter of the case (this was an ex officio investigation) concerned the possible infringement of section 3 of the Competition Law relating to possible collusions by the specific undertakings for the bid rigging of public tenders conducted by the Ministry for Transport Communications and Works, namely 1. Public Tender No. P.T.D.P.W. (Limassol) 6/2012 tender dated 30 November 2011, 2. Public Tender No. P.T.D.P.W. (Limassol) 15/2012 tender dated 3 February 2012 and 3. Public Tender No. P.T.D.P.W. (Limassol) 54/2012 tender dated 10 June 2012. The public tenders related to the supply and transportation of ready-mix concrete class C15, C20, C25 and C30 for the district of Limassol - Districts 1, 2, 3 and 5. The CPC, having evaluated the evidence unanimously concluded that there are infringements of sections 3(1)(a) and 3(1)(c) of the Law relating to price fixing and market sharing in the relevant market, as follows:

  • Mattheos Ioannou Ready Mix Concrete Ltd, C.Kythreotis Skyrodema Ltd, Athinodorou & Poullas Super Beton Ltd, Top Mix Concrete Ltd, I & S Kritonis Limited, Betoman Limited, Alfa Concrete Public Company Ltd through its financial successor Alfa Beton Ltd and Psaroudis Beton Limited, from 30 November 2011 to at least up until 22 December 2011 proceeded to bid rigging of Public Tender No. P.T.D.P.W. (Limassol) 6/2012 concerning the supply and transportation of ready-mix concrete class C15, C20, C25 and C30 for the district of Limassol.
  • Mattheos Ioannou Ready Mix Concrete Ltd, C.Kythreotis Skyrodema Ltd, Athinodorou & Poullas Super Beton Ltd, Top Mix Concrete Ltd, Skyramix Ltd, I & S Kritonis Limited, Betoman Limited, Alfa Concrete Public Company Ltd through its financial successor Alfa Beton Ltd and Psaroudis Beton Limited from 3 February 2012 to at least up until 24 February 2012 proceeded to bid rigging of Public Tender No. P.T.D.P.W. (Limassol) 15/2012 concerning the supply and transportation of ready-mix concrete class C15, C20, C25 and C30 for the district of Limassol.
  • Mattheos Ioannou Ready Mix Concrete Ltd, C.Kythreotis Skyrodema Ltd, Athinodorou & Poullas Super Beton Ltd, Skyramix Ltd, I & S Kritonis Limited, Betoman Ltd, Alfa Concrete Public Company Ltd through its financial successor Alfa Beton Ltd and Psaroudis Beton Limited from 10 June 2012 to at least up until 29 June 2012 proceeded to bid rigging of Public Tender No. P.T.D.P.W. (Limassol) 54/2012 concerning the supply and transportation of ready-mix concrete class C15, C20, C25 and C30 for the district of Limassol.

The Commission acting on the basis of section 24(a)(i) of the Law 13(I)/2008, decided by majority to impose administrative fines on the undertakings as follows:

  • a fine of €175,522 on C.Kythreotis Skyrodema Ltd;
  • a fine of €128,466 on Mattheos Ioannou Ready Mix Concrete Ltd;
  • a fine of €76,828 on Betoman Ltd;
  • a fine of €312,262 on Alfa Concrete Public Company Ltd through its financial successor Alfa Beton Ltd;
  • a fine of €207,566 on Athinodorou & Poullas Super Beton Ltd;
  • a fine of €21,850 on Top Mix Concrete Ltd;
  • a fine of €50,018 on Skyramix;
  • a fine of €114,366 on I & S Kritonis Limited; and
  • a fine of €68,715 on Psaroudis Beton Limited.

The Chairperson of the CPC, given the gravity of the infringement, which related to collusion and bid rigging of three public tenders, taking into account a number of factors that she analysed in her position, took the view that the amount of the fines imposed on all undertakings should be much higher.

In addition, the CPC acting on the basis of section 24 of the Law, decided to order the under­takings, to immediately terminate the infringement and to avoid repetition.

Furthermore, the Commission issued another infringement decision in the course of the investigation of the complaint by Pittas Dairies Ltd and Pittas Dairy Industries Ltd against the Pancyprian Organisation of Cattle Farmers (POCF) Public Ltd. With its decision the Commission imposed on the Pancyprian Organisation of Cattle Farmers (POCF) Public Ltd, total administrative fines amounting to €1,557.18 for two infringements of article 6 (1) (a) of the Competition Law. More specifically, the Commission following the completion of a preliminary investigation and having evaluated the evidence before it, issued on 24 July 2018 a decision (No: 32/2018), concerning two infringements of section 6(1)(a) of the Competition Law by the Pancyprian Organisation of Cattle Farmers Public Ltd (POCF). The subject matter of the investigation was a result of a complaint lodged by Pittas Dairies Ltd (PD) and Pittas Dairy Industries Ltd (PDI) against POCF for infringements of sections 6(1)(a), (b) and (c) and 6(2) of the Competition Law. It is noted that in addition to the complaint a request for interim measures was also filed. PD and PDI are companies active in the production and distribution of dairy products based on raw cows’ milk. POCF is a public limited company registered on 14 January 2004, for the purpose of promoting farm products, as per the relevant law and the Common Agricultural Policy of the EU. The purpose of POCF is the collective trade of raw cow milk on behalf of its producers-members and the management of the collection and distribution of milk. In 2012, POCF had acquired Papouis Dairies Limited, a company that owns a milk processing factory in the Industrial Area of Athienou and produces dairy products such as halloumi, kefalotyri, feta type and anari. Regarding the request for interim measures, the Commission, in its decision taken on 20 June 2012, unanimously decided (Decision no: 19/2012) to issue an Interim Order, on the basis of sections 23(2) and 28 of the Competition Law, by which POCF was ordered to supply raw cows’ milk to PD and PDI under certain conditions. It is noted that the Supreme Court of Cyprus ratified (upheld) the Commission’s decision, rejecting the appeal of POCF. The Commission, unanimously concluded that there was an infringement of section 6(1)(a) of the Law by POCF in relation to the imposition of unfair trading conditions, as a result of unfair and unilateral increases in the basic price of raw cows’ milk and the unfair and unilateral variations in the quantities of raw cows’ milk delivered to the complainants during the period from 1 April 2004 up until the date of filing a complaint, which was on 9 May 2012; the above practices continued throughout the period POCF was dealing with the complainant companies and these practices were considered to continue up until 2014. In addition, the Commission unanimously concluded that there was an infringement of section 6(1)(a) of the Competition Law by POCF, for fixing of unfair prices as a result of the margin squeeze between the price of raw cows’ milk and the price charged by POCF through its subsidiary company Papouis, in the market of production and supply of halloumi, for 2012. The CPC upon examining the fine to be imposed, exercising discretionary judgment, proceeded with the evaluation of all data and evidence before it, and taking into consideration, the nature and gravity of the infringement, and its duration, as set out in section 42(1) and 24(a)(i) of the Law:

  • unanimously decided to obligate POCF, to refrain from repeating any of the said infringements of section 6(1)(a) of the Law in the future;
  • decided by majority to impose an administrative fine of €1,038 on POCF regarding the said infringement of section 6(1)(a) of the Law in relation to unfair trading conditions; and
  • unanimously decided to impose an administrative fine of €519,060 on POCF regarding the said infringement of section 6(1)(a) of the Law in relation to unfair pricing.

Finally it is noted, that with respect to the alleged infringements of articles 6(1) (b), 6(1) (c) and 6(2) mentioned in the complaint, the CPC, after analysing the evidence before it, unanimously decided that, no such infringements have been demonstrated to have been taken place.

In addition, the Commission issued a decision in the case of Alpha Electric House Ltd against Fissler GmbH. The relevant case concerned section 6(2) of the Competition law, which pertains to abuse of a relationship of economic dependence. The finding of abuse was reached in 2012 in a previous CPC decision in 2012 (CPC Decision 42/2012) where a fine of €112,294 was imposed. Thereafter, Fissler filed an administrative recourse and the Administrative Court issued its decision (case 2056/2012). The Administrative Court upheld the CPC’s findings in relation to the abuse of the relationship of economic dependence by Fissler but quashed the decision in relation to the fine as it found that the decision of the CPC in relation to the administrative fine was not sufficiently justified on the basis of the criteria set out in the law. Thereafter, the CPC examined the case in relation to the administrative fine, taking into account the Administrative Court’s decision, and imposed a fine of €168,441.63.

The Commission has also issued a decision imposing on the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority a fine of € 1,166,175 for infringements of section 6 (1) (a) of Law N.13 (I)/2008 in connection with the examination of the complaint submitted to the Commission by PrimeTel Co Ltd against CYTA and Lumiere TV Public Company Ltd (LTV). The complaint concerned alleged violations by both CYTA and LTV of sections 3 and 6 of the Protection of Competition Law 2008 (Law 13(I)/2008). The Commission, having examined all the evidence before it, namely the financial data and analyses submitted by CYTA, and having conducted its own economic analysis, unanimously concluded that in 2009–2010 CYTA sold the pay-TV service ‘Cytavision’, as well as the DSL Access and Cytavision services (when offered together), at a price below cost. On the basis of the data before it, the Commission unanimously concluded that CYTA intended to eliminate competition. The Commission therefore considered that CYTA had infringed article 6 (1) (a) of the Law and ordered CYTA to avoid any repetition of the infringement in the future and also imposed the following administrative fines:

  • regarding the infringement of section 6 (1) (a) of the Law by CYTA as a result of predatory pricing of pay-TV service ‘Cytavision’ for the period 2009-2010, a fine of € 583,087; and
  • regarding the infringement of section 6 (1) (a) of the Law by CYTA as a result of predatory pricing of pay-TV service ‘Cytavision’ and broadband Access ‘DSL Access’ (when offered together ) for the period 2009–2010, a fine of €583,087.

Further to the decision in relation to the infringement of section 6 (1) (a) of the Law by CYTA, the Commission also reached the following conclusions in relation to the other allegations raised in Primetel’s complaint.

  • No infringement of section 6 (1) (b) of the Law by CYTA has been established in relation to the allegations of refusal to provide sport content as CYTA was found not to be holding a dominant position on the market for premium content.
  • No infringement of section 6 (1) (c) of the Law by CYTA has been established regarding (i) the refusal to supply premium content to Primetel and (ii) the alleged abuse of a collective dominant position by CYTA and LTV, which led Primetel to a disadvantage because CYTA did not hold a dominant position in the premium content market and because neither CYTA nor LTV held a collective dominant position in the market of acquisition of Cypriot football premium content and rights.
  • No infringement of section 6 (2) of the Law by CYTA has been established for misuse of Primetel’s economic dependence on CYTA.
  • No infringement of section 6 (1) (a) of the Law has been established in relation to the allegations for excessive prices in terms of minimum subscriptions by LTV on the wholesale market for film and sports channels.
  • No infringement of section 3 (1) (a) and 3 (1) (b) of the Law by CYTA and LTV has been established for excessive prices in terms of minimum subscribers’ guarantees in the wholesale supply of film and sports channels.

The Commission has also issued two decisions rejecting applications for the issuance of interim measures. One of these was in the Case of Blade Enterprises Ltd (Blade) v the Cyprus Newspapers and Magazines Association, the members of the said association and MMC Media Monitoring Electronic Ltd. The case concerned the alleged refusal of the association and its members to allow Blade the indexing of newspapers and magazine material produced by them. The CPC decided that, on the basis of the evidence, the accumulative conditions of section 28 of the Competition law were not satisfied as it was found that the condition of ‘an emergency case due to serious danger of irreparable damage on competition’ was not satisfied because there was no immediate danger of the company exiting the market as it continued to operate on the market by providing its services on the basis of other agreements that it has concluded with other publishers.

The other case where a decision was issued rejecting an application for the issuance of interim measures was the case of Premier Shukuroglou Cyprus Ltd v Hellagrolip SA. By the application filed, Premier Shukuroglou Cyprus Ltd requested that Hellagrolip supply the applicant immediately with chemical fertilisers for potato and grain crops with the same or equivalent trading conditions as those applied during their cooperation, which was allegedly abruptly terminated. The CPC decided that, on the basis of the evidence, the accumulative conditions of section 28 of the national competition law were not satisfied as it was found that the condition of ‘an emergency case due to serious danger of irreparable damage on competition’ was not satisfied because no significant change resulted in the structure of the market and no definitive or irreversible effect has occurred, since the applicant can obtain and offer for sale fertilisers from other companies and, moreover, the applicant appeared to continue to be active in the market.

Furthermore, the CPC was also involved in the national preparations and groundwork in relation to the Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council to empower the competition authorities of the member states to be more effective enforcers and to ensure the proper functioning of the internal market.

The CPC continues to cooperate closely with regulators and in particular with the Regulator for Telecommunications and Postal Services and the Energy Regulator, and provides reasoned opinions to public bodies, such as government departments and the House of Representatives, on issues of its competence and on new or older legislation or other activities.

The CPC is committed to the public enforcement of competition rules to prevent and deter infringements for the benefit of the economy and consumers. Being an administrative body, the CPC must investigate all complaints submitted despite its limited resources available and also has the power to initiate ex officio investigations as well as conduct sector inquiries.

Get unlimited access to all Global Competition Review content