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Raspberries and IT: New Sector Inquiries by the Serbian Competition Commission

March 2018 - EU & Competition. Legal Developments by Karanovic & Nikolic.

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The Serbian Competition Commission (the "Commission") recently finished sector inquiries concerning quite distinct industries – raspberries and the public procurement for software and hardware. The aim behind the inquiries was to perform extensive market research and analysis in order to acquire a clearer picture of the possible antitrust issues and risks in two sectors widely perceived as strategic for the development of the Serbian economy.

The Commission analysed two relevant markets within the broader ICT market - more specifically:

  • the wholesale of software; and,
  • the wholesale of hardware (computers and computer equipment).

These markets are especially interesting in relation to the public procurement procedures, where the value of public procurements rose by 27% from 2014 to 2016, mostly in open bidding procedures. The Commission identified four major contracting authorities, the largest of them being "Elektroprivreda Srbije" and six suppliers/bidders identified as largest by accounting for almost 50% of the value of the relevant public procurements.

Having in mind the characteristics of these markets, inter alia, a small number of market players, few alternatives to the services provided, repetitive public procurement procedures, the Commission noted that bid rigging could be a potential cause for concern, and stated that it would dedicate special attention to working together with the relevant actors in rooting out any such practices in the future, in order to ensure a level playing field and efficient use of public resources.

The second sector inquiry dealt with the markets for raspberry repurchase and export in the period between 2015 and 2017. The competitive conditions on these markets are likely especially interesting for the local authorities, since Serbia is one of the largest producers of raspberries in the world, accountable for approx. 10% of the raspberries grown globally.

During the inquiry, the Commission determined that there are certain structural issues that might affect the relevant markets and the Serbian raspberry industry as a whole. The problems with a single repurchase price and long-term supply agreements gave rise to uncertainties concerning the value of raspberries produced and sold on the market. The Commission stressed the importance of including all the competent authorities and undertakings in order to solve these problems and maintain raspberries as a prominent and recognisable Serbian brand.

The Commission ultimately concluded that it did not identify any prima facie evidence of competition infringements affecting either of these markets. However, this does not mean that the Commission, now armed with more detailed information on the competitive environment, would not scrutinize the behaviour of specific market players at some point in the future. 

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