On the 19th of July of 2020, the Portuguese Competition Authority issued a Statement of Objections in which the Portuguese Advertising, Communication and Marketing Agencies Association (henceforth "APAP") was accused of performing anti-competitive acts, in particular for restraining its associates from freely participating in procurement tenders for advertising agencies.
Following a complaint received from an advertising agency in 2018, the Portuguese Competition Authority initiated several unannounced inspections in order to confirm whether or not the APAP was in breach of the Competition Act.
It was argued that APAP was urging its members to exclude themselves or abandon a tender, whenever advertisers did not follow the rules set on a "Commitment" previously adopted by the association. Such rules included restricting the numbers of competitors in the tender to a maximum of four.
In fact, it was found that the "Commitment" had the purpose of restricting competition between companies. This way, APAP monitored procurements tenders and urged advertising agencies to boycott the tender if any of those involved a large number of companies. Furthermore, it was proved that this association was aware of its illegal behavior.
With the investigation now completed in 2020, the Portuguese Competition Authority has decided that APAP was in breach of the Competition Act and thus imposed a fine of 3.6 million euros and the immediate revocation of the "Commitment" at issue.
In Portugal, five business associations were already fined for having deprived their members of the freedom to set their own commercial conditions. Amongst these, the sanctioned sectors involved driving schools, parking lots, freight of transportation, bread and pastry, as well as shipping agents.
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