Beware of Anti-Competitive Practice

It has been reported by the Norweigan International law Office that the Oslo District Court passed a judgment last month upholding a Competition Authority administrative fine of NKr400,000 (approximately €50,000) against a trade association for bus charter operators. The district court also decided to apply the penal burden of proof for administrative fines. The trade association for bus charter operators was accused of encouraging members to increase their prices through a membership newsletter and at a trade association meeting. The trade association had also prepared and distributed a model for calculating prices for bus chartering services. Certain elements of the model were filled out in advance, such as the price per kilometre and the prices for waiting periods, overnight services and daily driver allowances. The fine equates to double the annual turnover of the trade association, which was partly run in some members’ spare time. The trade association tried, without success, to argue that the statements and actions in question represented private opinions and actions of its chairman and the editor of its newsletter, and were not put forward on behalf of the trade association. It further argued that any restriction on competition had no appreciable effect, as the members of the trade association had a market share on a national basis of as little as 4% (although in some regions of Norway their market share was as high as 20%). This line of argument was rejected by the court, which described the matter as a serious infringement of competition law and refused to apply the notice on agreements of major importance to the case, referring to the fact that the measures in question had as their object the reduction of price competition in the market.