The Office Imposed Fines of CZK 280 Million on Undertakings Specialised in Issuing Food Stamps for Anti-Competitive Coordination of Terms of Trade

2022-09-12
In its first-instance decision, although not in force, the Office for the Protection of Competition (hereinafter referred to as "the Office") imposed fines in the total amount of CZK 279,152,000 on Sodexo Pass Česká republika a.s., Edenred CZ s.r.o. and Up Česká republika s.r.o. for a cartel agreement.

The Office declared the agreement illegal and invalid and banned it from future existence. The decision is not in force and the fifteen-day deadline for filing an appeal is currently running.

According to the Office's decision, the undertakings Sodexo Pass Česká republika a.s., Edenred CZ s.r.o. and Up Česká republika s.r.o. (hereinafter "Sodexo", "Edenred " and "Up") coordinated their terms of trade towards retail chains between 2004 and 2018 regarding the maximum number of meal vouchers accepted per purchase. Their conduct thus distorted competition in the market for the issue, sale and purchase of paper meal vouchers and related services in the Czech Republic. This infringed not only the Act on the Protection of Competition but also the competition provisions of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, as the agreement could have affected trade between Member States.

Since at least 2003, the parties to the proceedings have been trying (including through their Association of Voucher System Operators, and its predecessor) to introduce a term of trade under which no more than five food vouchers/purchases would be accepted in retail stores on the basis of a previous joint agreement.  From April 2004 at the latest, the term of trade on limiting the number of meal vouchers accepted for payment of purchases to a maximum of five pieces was promoted in the most important retail chains, and compliance with this term was subsequently monitored by the Association and by individual issuers of meal vouchers. The motivation for the limitation of the number of meal vouchers was also an effort to eliminate criticism and to maintain the meal voucher system in the Czech Republic. The anti-competitive behaviour resulted primarily in the setting of identical terms of trade for all the undertakings mentioned and restrictions on the use of meal vouchers for consumers.

The undertaking Sodexo was fined CZK 132,271, 000; Edenred CZK 101,940,000 and Up CZK 44,941,000 for the conduct described above. The fines are due within 90 days of entry into force of the decision and will become income of the State budget.

In addition, the parties to the prohibited agreement must comply with the remedies imposed within 60 days of the decision entering into force. Within this framework, they are obliged to inform their food retail partners of the prohibition and invalidity of the agreement, to publish this information on their websites for at least one year and to modify all their contracts according to which their retail partner was not allowed to accept more than 5 meal vouchers per purchase.

Press Unit of the Office for the Protection of Competition
22/130 – S0242/2018

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