Kuwaiti Competition Protection Agency Issues First Penalties

In Kuwait, the Competition Protection Authority (CPA) has been actively enforcing the Law on the Protection of Competition.

Competition law is crucial in promoting fair business practices and ensuring a level playing field for companies. In Kuwait, the Competition Protection Authority (CPA) has been actively enforcing the Law on the Protection of Competition. Recent cases investigated by the CPA shed light on the importance of compliance with competition regulations and the potential consequences for violators. This article explores two significant cases involving a steel manufacturer and several supermarkets, highlighting the fines imposed and the key takeaways for companies operating in Kuwait.

In late 2022, the CPA investigated business practices within the steel sector to verify compliance with the Kuwaiti competition regime. While no anti-competitive practices were discovered during the investigation, the CPA identified a steel company violating Article 34 of the Competition Law. This article mandates cooperation with CPA requests during an investigation.

The company in question failed to comply with the CPA's request for relevant documents and information. Despite being given ample time to respond, the company neglected to do so. Consequently, the CPA's Disciplinary Committee imposed a fine of one percent of the company's annual turnover, amounting to KWD 250,000 (approximately USD 806,000). This case highlights the importance of prompt and complete cooperation with the CPA during investigations. Failure to comply can result in substantial financial penalties, even if no anti-competitive practices are found.

In another significant case, the CPA imposed fines on 14 supermarkets for abusing their dominant market positions, contravening Article 8 of the Competition Law. The supermarkets employed coercive tactics to force their egg suppliers into providing extra eggs without charge, threatening to terminate business relationships if the demands were unmet. The CPA found that these actions distorted competition in the Kuwaiti egg market, negatively impacting small and medium-sized competitors and potentially deterring new market entrants.

To address these abuses, the CPA levied fines equal to five percent of the annual revenue of 12 supermarkets and one percent of the annual revenue of the remaining two supermarkets. The total fines amounted to KWD 8.8 million (approximately USD 28.8 million). The substantial fines underscore the CPA's commitment to curbing anti-competitive behavior and send a strong message to other companies operating in Kuwait.

The cases discussed above hold important implications for businesses operating in Kuwait. The fine imposed on the steel manufacturer for non-compliance should serve as a wake-up call for companies to prioritize cooperation with the CPA during investigations. Failure to do so can lead to significant financial penalties, irrespective of whether anti-competitive practices are discovered.

The substantial fines imposed on the supermarkets for abuse of dominance highlight the CPA's determination to uphold fair competition. This underscores the need for companies to be mindful of their market position and refrain from engaging in practices that distort competition or harm smaller competitors. Businesses must foster a culture of fair play and compliance with competition regulations to avoid hefty fines and damage to their reputation.

The ambiguity surrounding the calculation of fines based on domestic revenue raises questions for companies with international operations. While the fines in these cases were calculated on domestic revenue, whether this approach would be consistently applied remains to be seen. Businesses should closely monitor upcoming guidelines from the CPA to gain clarity on the calculation of fines for companies with global operations.

The recent cases handled by the CPA in Kuwait demonstrate the authority's commitment to enforcing competition regulations and maintaining a fair business environment. Companies operating in Kuwait must heed the lessons learned from these cases. Compliance with the CPA's requests, refraining from anti-competitive behavior, and understanding the potential consequences of non-compliance are vital for businesses seeking to thrive in Kuwait's competitive landscape. By prioritizing fair play and compliance, companies can mitigate the risk of significant fines and ensure a level playing field for all market participants.

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