The European Commission has lowered a fine to be imposed on ARA for blocking its competitors from entering the Austrian household packaging waste management market or. ARA earned the 30% reduction by cooperating with the Commission: it acknowledged the infringement and proposed a structural remedy. In antitrust cases other than horizontal cartels, there is currently limited practice in rewarding cooperation in a prohibition decision. Competition Commissioner Vestager hopes that ARA's example will start a trend where companies help the Commission in exchange for a fine reduction. This is an option worth exploring when being investigated by the Commission.
Altstoff Recycling Austria (ARA) owned an allegedly essential facility, a unique collection infrastructure, without which companies could not provide waste management services throughout Austria. Competitors wanting to enter or expand in the market depended on receiving access to ARA's infrastructure. The Commission imposed a EUR 6 million fine on ARA for denying access to its competitors. The fine was reduced by 30% in exchange for ARA's comprehensive cooperation, which consisted of both admitting that it had infringed article 102 TFEU and proposing to divest part of its infrastructure. This allowed the Commission to take a quicker decision and provided a permanent solution for the competition problem. Competition Commissioner Vestager has stated that ARA's type of cooperation will be the start of a trend, "because if more companies follow ARA's lead, the Commission will be able to do more to protect consumers."
Further information on how companies can obtain a fine reduction through the cooperation procedure can be found in the European Commission's note Antitrust: reduction of fines for cooperation.
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