The AdC accused a corporate group of abusing its dominant position in the payments sector
Press Release 14/2022
28 July 2022
The Portuguese Competition Authority (Autoridade da Concorrência, AdC) issued a Statement of Objections against a corporate group for tying behavior which may restrict competition and innovation in the payments sector.
Following an investigation, the AdC concluded that there are strong indicia that access to certain important payment services (primary services) was made conditional on the purchase of other set of services (secondary services) from the same corporate group. Furthermore, access solely to the primary services was not allowed by the corporate group.
Access to these concerned primary services owned by the corporate group is necessary for its potential clients to then offer certain payment services to final consumers. The concerned corporate group is the only operator providing access to the set of payment services its potential clients sought to access.
The preliminary investigation undertaken by the AdC also strongly indicates that:
(i) The services concerned can be provided separately.
(ii) The corporate group had the incentive to make the access to the primary services conditional upon the acquisition of the secondary services from the same corporate group and did so with the aim of restricting competition.
(iii) This tying conduct can bring about restrictions to competition, by:
- reducing potential clients’ freedom of choice with respect to their provider of secondary services.
- limiting the entry/expansion of competing providers and, as such, competition in the markets for the provision of the secondary services.
- limiting the ability of the corporate group’s potential clients to expand, differentiate and innovate.
Recent regulatory developments in the payment services sector, both at the European and national level (e.g., the Second Payment Services Directive), seek to ensure equivalent operating conditions for both existing and new payment service providers, enabling new means of payment, based on digital technologies, to reach a broader market.
This digitalization process in payment services brings about new opportunities for competition in the sector, to the benefit of consumers – through more competitive prices, more choice, and services that are a better fit to their preferences.
If confirmed, the conducted investigated by the AdC – that took place at least from February 2019 to October 2021 – can raise barriers to this evolution in the sector, restricting competition and innovation in the markets concerned.
The process was initiated ex-officio by the AdC in November 2020, following a sector inquiry in the financial sector, and in particular, a survey to a set of firms in the financial sector based in digital technologies (FinTech). The AdC carried out inspections in the premises of firms from the corporate group, located in Lisbon, in January and February 2021.
For more information on the case, please see the AdC's website.
Combating anticompetitive practices as a priority for the AdC
The Portuguese Competition Act expressly prohibits abuses of a dominant position, by one or more undertakings, that restrict competition by object or by effect, in the whole or part of the national territory, given the harm that they bring about to consumers and/or to firms.
The combat against abusive practices, namely those that lead to the exclusion of competitors, continues to merit priority from the AdC, given the prejudice that they inevitably cause to consumers and firms, making them pay higher prices and reducing the quality and diversity of goods and services available to them.
The infringement to competition rules, not only reduces consumer welfare, but also hinders the competitiveness of firms, harming the economy as a whole.
The AdC highlights that the Statement of Objections, issued on the 28 of July 2022, does not determine the outcome of the investigation. In this phase of the proceedings, an opportunity is given to the undertakings to exercise their rights of hearing and defense regarding the infringement of which they are accused and the sanctions in which they can incur.