Ljubljana, 14 September (STA) - The Competition Protection Office has launched infringement proceedings against five leading Slovenian pharmaceutical wholesalers on suspicion of bid rigging in public procurement, the papers reported on Tuesday.
According to reports in dailies Delo and Dnevnik, the companies allegedly colluded in biding for public contracts so that they "alloted the wholesale market of medicinal products for human use among themselves".
The competition watchdog has already completed the investigation and is expected to make its decision known by the end of the year. If found guilty, the companies face a fine of up to 10% of their annual turnover.
Kemofarmacija, Salus and Farmadent, which are owned by the pharmacy chain Mariborske lekarne, Farmadent-owned Gopharm and Nensi, a database of medicinal products, allegedly violated the ban on restrictive agreements under Slovenian and EU law.
The anti-trust office initiated the proceedings against the companies in late July, finding that they agreed on distribution of deals with pharmacies based on their market shares.
The estimated value of the pharmacy market in Slovenia is between 550 and 600 million euros, with another half of this sum generated with medicines purchased by hospitals, Dnevnik reported.
The watchdog said that the companies violated legislation by "agreeing or taking concerted action in bidding or negotiations and contracting, exchanging sensitive information concerning prices and other business terms on the wholesale market of medicinal products for human use, especially in bidding for public procurement".
Consequently, the companies did not compete in public procurement procedures, but they fixed selling prices and other terms of sale, so that there was no competition anymore, Delo reported.