The Commission for Protection of Competition (henceforth CPC) has the exclusive competence for the harmonious operation of the market, within the rules of fair competition far from any anticompetitive distortions as means to boost economic growth and social welfare.
The Protection of Competition Law 2008 and 2014 in conjunction with the Control of Concentrations of Enterprises Law 83(Ι)/2014, place the rules and principles that have as an objective the maintenance of effective competition within the Cypriot market. The laws entrust the CPC with the obligation for the fulfillment of this objective that creates the conditions so that consumers are offered higher quality goods and services at competitive prices This way productivity and investments of enterprises are increases as well as the creation of a climate favourable to the research, innovation and technological progress.
The Commission for Protection of Competition was established in 1990 with the enactment of the Protection of Competition of Law 207/89. The law in question was abolished with the enactment of the Protection of Competition of Law 2008 (Law number 13 (I) /2008) that was amended by the Law 41(Ι)/2014. The Protection of Competition Law 2008 and 2014, inter alia, determine the Commission as the competition authority of the Cyprus Republic, responsible for the application of Regulation 1/2003, and of articles 101 and 102 TFEU, where necessary.
Pursuant to the Law, the CPC has the exclusive competence to:
(a) investigate and take decisions on the infringement of sections 3 and/or 6 of the Law and of Articles 101 and/or 102 TFEU,
(b) decide whether all the conditions of section 4 of the Law are met so that an agreement, decision and concerted practice which falls under section 3(1) of the Law is valid,
(c)decide whether all the conditions of Articles 101(3) TFEU are met so that an agreement, decision and concerted practice which falls under Article 101 TFEU is valid,
(d)decide whether the concerted practice for which an Order has been requested pursuant to section 5(1) of the Law, falls within the category of the concerted practices provided for in the Order and thus section 3 of the Law does not apply,
(e)decide whether the concerted practice for which there is an invocation of the Community Regulation, pursuant to section 5(2) of the Law, falls within the category of the concerted practices provided for in the Community Regulation,
(f)decide on interim measures under the provision of article 28,
(g)impose terms and behaviour and /or structural remedies, according to the infringement, necessary to bring the infringement to an end;
(h)conduct investigation in a specific sector of the economy or in specific types of agreements pursuant to section 32A
(i)set, by a decision, the criteria for examination of cases in priority, for infringements of sections 3 and/or 6 and/or Articles 101 TFEU and/or Article 102 TFEU pursuant to article 23A of this Law and to examine cases based on these priority criteria, taking into account the public interest, the possible effect on competition and/or consumers and the limitation periods as defined in section 41.
(j)issue press releases to inform anyone who is interested on its competences and
(k)issue informal guidance to public bodies about its competences and powers without this meaning that it will be binding on a later on decision.
The CPC for every infringement of sections 3 and/or 6 of the Law and of Articles 101 and/or 102 TFEU, has the power to impose the following measures:
(a)to impose an administrative fine, according to the gravity and duration of the infringement, not exceeding ten percent of the combined annual revenue of the undertaking or not exceeding ten percent of the revenue of every undertaking member of the association of undertakings, in the year within which the infringement took place or in the year which immediately preceded the infringement;
(b)require that the undertakings or association of undertaking bring the infringement to an end within the set time period and avoid repetition in the future. Where the infringement has been brought to an end before the decision of the CPC, the CPC may condemn the undertakings with a reconnoitering decision;
(c) where the Commission intents to adopt a decision requiring that the infringement is brought to an end and the undertakings concerned offer commitments to meet the concerns expressed to them by the CPC in its preliminary assessment, the CPC may by decision make those commitments binding on the undertakings.
(d) in case that the undertakings or associations of undertakings concerned do not comply with the Commission’s decision issued pursuant to paragraphs (b) and (c) above, the Commission may impose an administrative fine up to five per cent (5%) of the average daily turnover, in the year within which the infringement took place or in the year which immediately preceded the infringement for each day during which the infringement continues.
Additionally, in accordance with the provisions of the Interchange Fee for card-based payment transaction Law 75(I)/2018, the Competition Commission is the competent authority for ensuring the implementation of Sections 6, 8, 9, 10 (1) to (3), 11 and 12 of the Regulation (EU) 2015/571 on interchange fees for card-based payment transactions.
Interchange fees are usually applied between the card-acquiring payment service providers and the card-issuing payment service providers belonging to a certain payment card scheme. Interchange fees constitute the main part of the fees charged to merchants by acquiring payment service providers for every card-based payment transaction. Merchants in turn incorporate those costs, like all their other costs, in the total price of goods and services. Competition between payment card schemes to convince payment service providers to issue their cards leads to higher rather than lower interchange fees on the market, in contrast with the usual price-disciplining effect of competition in a market economy. In addition to a consistent application of the competition rules to interchange fees, regulating such fees would improve the functioning of the internal market and contribute to reducing transaction costs for consumers.
The Regulation undertakes harmonization of maximum interchange fees, creating transparency, thus allowing merchants to be fully aware of the percentage rates applicable when processing card-based payment transactions, and strengthen competition in the market, thereby providing consumers with a greater variety of choice between different payments cards and service providers.
The Regulation is part of a greater effort to impose measures regarding the promotion of a digital single market, making payments safer and cheaper and opens the way for new innovative payment technologies.
The articles of the Regulation for which the Competition Commission is the competent authority are as follows:
· Article 6 – licensing and prohibition of territorial limitation,
· Article 8 – co-badging and choice of payment brand or payment application,
· Article 9 – unblending (separation of information regarding the level of merchant fees),
· Article 10(1) to (3) – ‘Honour All Cards’ rule,
· Article 11 – steering rules, and
· Article 12 - Information to the payee on individual card-based payment transactions.