Competition law

Author: | Published: 1 Dec 2005
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Raposo Bernardo & Associados

Address

Lisbon

Telephone

+351 21 312 13 30

Fax

+351 21 356 29 08

Competition issues in Portugal have gained momentum since a new competition act was passed in June 2003. The act empowers a new supervisory body, the Competition Authority, to tackle, what was until recently, a dormant issue. The recent application of an €16 million fine against five drugs and diagnostics multinationals forms the most striking example of how seriously competition issues are taken in Portugal. The fine is the largest ever and was imposed for concerted practises in 36 different public tenders to supply 22 hospitals. Although the rules are not radically different from those established by the 1993 Competition Act, the Competition Authority has been awarded the statutory independence, and the resources, to pursue a serious and comprehensive competition policy that was previously lacking. Apart from public-sector supplies, the Competition Authority has been showing a steadfast approach to its duties, tackling such different markets and sectors as telecoms, energy, construction and pharmaceuticals.

If companies and individuals were previously unaware of the consequences of anti-competitive behaviour, the record fine has demonstrated the Competition Authority's determination to pursue a carrot-and-stick approach to competition regulation. Other examples of the authority's approach include a raid on the headquarters of Portugal's largest telecommunications company.

Large and medium-sized companies, alongside industry associations, are now showing greater respect towards compliance with competition rules. The Portuguese legal market has been quick to adapt to the new situation. Law firms are now paying greater attention to competition issues, offering workshops, model codes of conduct and consultation on Competition Authority decisions. The initial wave of Competition Authority decisions is expected to lead to liability and compensation claims from those adversely affected by anti-competitive behaviour.

João Pateira Ferreira