This Competition Law Newsletter provides information on the latest developments in relation to the Turkish competition market and the implementation of Law No 4054 on the Protection of Competition (the "Law") in light of recent announcements and publications by the Competition Authority (the "Authority") and decisions of the Competition Board (the "Board").
The Board rendered 25 decisions between 25 August and 30 September 2022. The distribution of these decisions was as follows:
Two of the breaches of competition law were investigation decisions and two were preliminary investigation decisions. The companies involved in these were mainly active in the automobile, house appliances, banking and telecommunication sectors. As a result of the Board's decisions, no administrative fines were imposed on the companies, as none of them were found to be in breach of the Law.
The Board has continued its series of investigations in various sectors as follows:
The Board gave conditional approval to the partial acquisition of Checklas Otomotiv A.Ş. by LG Lastik Girişim A.Ş., provided that the term of the non-compete obligation is changed to be three years and second-degree relatives of the sellers are excluded from the scope of the non-compete obligation2.
The Board has authorised the creation of a joint venture by Lufthansa Industry Solutions AS GmbH (an IT service provider and a subsidiary of the Lufthansa Group) and A4nXT GmbH (an indirect subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group, which is under the sole control of Porsche Automobil Holding SE Stuttgart)3. The joint venture will operate in the field of information technology consultancy and information technology ancillary services in the European Economic Area. The Board concluded that the proposed acquisition would raise no competition concerns given the joint venture’s limited foreseen activity and the limited overlaps between the companies’ activities.
Back in 2009, the Board dismissed complaints in respect of 12 automobile companies regarding an alleged collusion between new automobile producers and distributors to increase prices and to restrict the supply of automobiles on the grounds that there was not sufficient evidence to initiate an investigation. However, the Board's dismissal decision was reversed by the Plenary Session of the Administrative Law Chamber of the Council of State (IDDK) and so the Board launched an investigation on 26 March 2020 for activities performed during 2009 against those 12 automobile companies. The Board examined the case both on the end of the statute of limitations and the ne bis in idem principle (avoiding double prosecutions/punishments against the same facts with same persons) in accordance with the defences of the relevant undertakings. In the decision, the Board decided that no fines should be applied in respect of any of the parties on the ground that the conditions for ne bis in idem principle was met with respect to 11 companies subject to the investigation, and that the collected evidence did not indicate or prove a breach of the Law in respect of the remaining company.
The Board launched a preliminary investigation on 17 January 2020 to consider the alleged anti-competitive activities of 27 financial entities (including banks and portfolio management companies) in relation to deposits, loans, foreign exchange, government bonds, commercial bonds, and intermediation services. The Board did not find sufficient evidence to continue the investigation into the relevant allegations, whereas the preliminary investigation took two years and involved an extensive request for information from all the parties subject to the investigation. This decision marks the increasing attention of the Board on the banking market at times of significant currency fluctuations (relevant product markets being defined as corporate banking services market, derivatives market, fund (management) market, bond/securities market and foreign exchange market).
The Board launched a preliminary investigation into complaints about an infringement of competition law against certain home appliance companies, backed up by claims that such home appliance companies and their distributors restricted internet sales and fixed resale prices. Following its evaluations, the Board decided that no investigation is required in respect of Vestel Elektronik Sanayi ve Ticaret A.Ş ("Vestel"), but that the remaining companies would be investigated. That said, in its objection annotation, one of the Board members dissented against the dismissal decision because he considered that actions such as restricting internet sales and fixing resale prices are common anti-competitive activities observed in the market, and factoring in the fact that in the oligopolistic structures such as in the house appliances market where the firms' decisions are influenced by the decisions of other firms, an economic analysis should have covered all companies, including Vestel.
Türk Telekomünikasyon A.Ş. ("Türk Telekom") was subject to an investigation where competing undertakings claimed that Türk Telekom was in a dominant position on the wholesale fixed broadband internet services market and was unjustly preventing its competitors on the retail fixed broadband services market from gaining customers and providing services. Although the Board found that Türk Telekom was in a dominant position on the wholesale fixed broadband internet services market, the actions of Türk Telekom did not constitute a breach of the Law by being an abuse of its dominant position on this market. That said, one of the Board members dissented to the decision and stated that Türk Telekom actually complicated the operations of its competitors and caused the closure of the relevant market.
On 3 March 2022, the Board issued a decision regarding the actions that resulted in a hindrance/obstruction of the inspection at an on-site inspection carried out Kınık Maden Suları AŞ (Kınık), as part of the investigation initiated against suppliers on the natural mineral water market. The Board concluded unanimously that the deletion of both Whatsapp data and email correspondences during the on-site inspection was considered an obstruction of access to potential evidence and findings and a hindrance of the on-site inspection, therefore imposed an administrative fine on Kınık by referring to the previous decisional practice of the Board (Eti Decision, Pasifik Decision, Medicana Samsun Decision, İstanbul Gübre Decision, etc.) as well as the administrative court decisions on this subject.
On 23 June 2022, the Board issued a decision regarding the hindrance/obstruction of an on-site inspection by Yeni Mağazacılık A.Ş. (A101) as part of an investigation initiated against retailers in the FMCG market. The Board concluded with a majority vote that there was no concrete evidence that the deletion of Whatsapp data occurred after the inspection commenced, therefore the Board did not impose an administrative fine against the undertaking. However, a dissenting opinion was issued with the aim of expanding the scope of the examination of digital data before the on-site inspection by referring to the previous decisional practice of the Board (Medicana Samsun Decision14, İstanbul Gübre Decision15,etc.) on the grounds that:
With this decision, the Board stated explicitly that reasonable doubt of any kind of digital data deletion before an on-site inspection cannot be considered as concrete evidence. The decision is important since it differs from Board's previous decisions regarding hindering/obstructing on-site inspections, as it sets a high standard of proof in favour of undertakings. It must be underlined that the Board’s decision resembles a recent judgment by the Ankara 2nd Administrative Court in terms of the emphasis on the Board’s obligation to rely on concrete evidence.
On 21 July 2021, the Board concluded on the negative clearance/exemption request of Dogus Otomotiv for its consultancy agreement concluded with ADP Oto Sanayi ve Ticaret Ltd. Şti. for the purpose of market research regarding spare parts and repair and maintenance services. The Board evaluated that the facts that (i) the requested data consist of publicly available and current prices information and (ii) the supplier of data is a market research company, the information exchange cannot be considered as sensitive in terms of competition law. In this regard, the Board granted a negative clearance since no competition concerns will arise as a result of this agreement on relevant markets.
1 Decision of the Board dated 28.04.2022 and numbered 22-20/320-142.
2 Decision of the Board dated 14.04.2022 and numbered 22-17/286-130.
3 Decision of the Board dated 10.03.2022 and numbered 22-12/177-72.
4 Decision of the Board dated 28.04.2022 and numbered 22-20/311-136.
5 Decision of the Board dated 24.03.2022 and numbered 22-14/233-101.
6Decision of the Board dated 17.02.2022 and numbered 22-08/115-45.
7 Decision of the Board dated 10.02.2022 and numbered 22-09/122-47.
8 Decision of the Board dated 26.08.2021 and numbered 21-40/595-290.
9 Decision of the Board dated 26.08.2021 and numbered 21-40/576-279.
10 Decision of the Board dated 09.09.2021 and numbered 21-42/617-303.
11 Decision of the Board dated 30.09.2021 and numbered 21-46/667-332.
12 Decision of the Board dated 03.03.2022 and numered 22-11/161-65
13 Decision of the Board dated 23.06.2022 and numbered 22-28/464-187
14 Decision of the Board dated 17.06.2021 and numbered 21-31/400-202
15 Decision of the Board dated 12.08.2021 and numbered 21-38/544-265