ECONOMY

Competition watchdog to focus on sectors affecting everyday life

The Competition Commission will be focusing its efforts on the energy sector, food and basic household commodities in the coming months, targeting these sectors specifically because they have the biggest direct impact on the lives of ordinary citizens.

This initiative does not signal a change in direction as the Commission has already started examining obstacles to competition in these sectors following complaints, as well as through regulatory interventions, particularly in the case in the fuel market.

Emphasis will also be placed on the product and services markets – considered to be crucial for Greek consumers – as well as on markets where prices are higher and quality lower in Greece than in other European Union member states. In the latter case, the Greek watchdog has set two targets: First to uncover practices that thwart competition such as price-fixing and abuse of dominant positions. And second, to identify any structural problems in specific markets that are responsible for the inflexibility of prices.

Kathimerini understands that the sectors of financial services and public procurements, as well as various categories of self-employed professionals, will also be examined by the Competition Commission. Public procurements will be subject to particular scrutiny as it is an area that is prone to manipulation and tender adulteration, where contracts are often granted to influential market players.

As far as self-employed professionals are concerned, watchdog sources say that representative bodies such as unions and federations often exceeded their mandates, imposing specific prices and rates on their members. In other words, a number of unions in Greece are seen to operate as cartels of sorts. A recent example is the Association of Cretan Denturists, which, according to a recent finding by the Competition Commission, dictated a minimum price for the services provided by its member-enterprises.

Since its foundation in 2000, the commission has imposed fines worth over a total of 410 million euros. It has also made great improvements in carrying out its decisions, meaning that the state has been able to collect more than 65 percent of the fines imposed.

The watchdog is also expected to receive a boost from a government initiative to seek help from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in the form of know-how on dealing with monopolies and oligopolies, likely leading to changes in the legal framework governing the commission.