The intervention of the Portuguese Competition Authority (Autoridade da Concorrência - AdC) led to the introduction of amendments in the information disclosure system of Associação Portuguesa de Leasing, Factoring e Renting (ALF) – the Portuguese Association of Leasing, Factoring and Renting Companies – involving its associated members, in order to restore competitive conditions in the market for the benefit of consumers.
On April 23 2015, the AdC opened proceedings against ALF and its associated members, for alleged infringements of competition rules. The investigation carried out by the AdC revealed the existence of a system of exchange of sensitive information related to products and services in the markets for leasing, factoring and renting, directly promoted by ALF, involving the associated members.
The information exchange system institutionalized by ALF could be likely to promote a restrictive effect on competition, allowing participants to act in the possession of sensitive (even if historical) information of its competitors, as well as frequently monitor their position in the market.
In order to respond to the competition concerns expressed by the AdC, ALF presented a set of commitments undertaking to amend its information disclosure system, by increasing the age of the individualized data that it makes available to members, as well as introducing changes to the rules of reciprocity in the collection and dissemination of information.
Following the public consultation on the set of submitted commitments, the AdC concluded that it was in a position to accept it, making it binding on ALF as a means of ensuring the application of the rules of promotion and defense of competition in the market sectors represented by ALF.
In view of this conclusion, on December 21, 2017, the Board of AdC decided, under the terms provided in article 24, No. 3, d), Law No. 19/2012, of 8 May, to close the proceedings in case PRC/2015/8 following the acceptance of commitments and the imposition of conditions, that will be monitored by the AdC.
The Portuguese Association of specialized consumer credit (ASFAC), another of the representative associations of the sector, was also subject to proceedings and offered similar commitments (PRC/2015/9).
The two associations and their associated members were subject to dawn raids on January 28 and 29, 2016.
The fact that associations of undertakings aggregate competitors in a given sector is not in itself restrictive of competition. However, by constituting fora of discussion between competing undertakings and by defending their interests, associations of undertakings must be aware that their decisions and initiatives may be restrictive of competition if they enable or promote the coordination of the strategic behavior of their members, interfering with the free play of competition and with the autonomy of economic agents. Each company must independently determine its commercial policy, thus generating competition in the market.
For the benefit of the implementation of practices that do not breach competition law, the AdC published in December of 2016 a Guide for Associations of Undertakings, available here, at AdC’s website. 21 December 2017