Bulgarian Anti-Trust Watchdog Chair: Cartel Participants Must Be Held Criminally Liable
Petko Nikolov, Chair of Bulgaria's Commission for Protection of Competition (KZK) has suggested that the proposal of holding cartel participants criminally liable should be put to discussion.
In a Monday interview for 24 Hours daily, Nikolov says that it is high time that the fight against cartels became a priority not only of the KZK but of the entire country.
He specifies that criminal liability is individual and the person who represented the company in the cartel agreement should be held liable.
Nikolov notes that the latest type of cartel which the anti-trust watchdog came across involved public procurement auction manipulations.
He says that KZK has already sent instructions for combating tender manipulation to all potential contracting authorities so that the entities can conduct inspections and notify KZK in the case of cartel suspicions in a public procurement deal.
He further recommends debate on the proposal to list abuse of substantial market power as criminal offense.
In Nikolov's words, KZK does not need more powers but could benefit from a budget increase and upgrade of the equipment.
He emphasizes that the fact that the forensic laboratory of KZK was last updated 7-8 years ago means that companies are able to hide files containing information which the anti-trust watchdog cannot access due to the outdated equipment.
Nikolov suggests that a modernization of KZK's laboratory would allow the watchdog to complete probes within much shorter deadlines.
Asked to comment on the ongoing inspection of KZK of the three power distributors operating in the country, Nikolov says that the probe is to identify a potential cartel agreement among the power distributors, the Association of Electricity Traders and the Energy Management Institute.
He goes on to say that the energy sector analysis initiated by KZK is to shed light on the participants in the electricity and natural gas markets prior to the implementation of the full energy market liberalization.
The analysis is also to reveal how price-setting decisions are made, what they are influenced by, and whether there is a risk of restricted access to the markets.
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