DEPO DIY store fined for failing to provide complete information to Latvian watchdog

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Latvia's consumer watchdog, the Competition Council (KC) announced December 2 that on November 21, it ruled that the DEPO chain of DIY stores had not provided full information it had requested and consequently would be subject to a fine of EUR 701,811.

"From 2015 to 2017, the KC investigated a cartel involving four building material traders and two building material manufacturers. In 2017, the KC made a ruling, finding sustained price coordination and maintenance of artificially high price levels, and imposed fines totaling EUR 5.8 million. The decision is currently pending," the KC said in a statement.

However, following the conclusion of the investigation and the final decision, the KC found that the explanations provided by the company were incomplete. 

"Nor had the company taken the opportunity during the investigation to clarify and supplement the explanations initially provided to the Authority," the KC said.

Therefore a fresh fine of EUR 701 811 was imposed on the company in respect of a procedural violation for failure to provide full information during the investigation.

The KC decision of 2017 is currently pending and the new fine does not affect the 2017 decision or the course of ongoing proceedings, the watchdog said.

DEPO reacted angrily on its corporate website, even going so far as to say: "Is it such a time that when there is a shortage of money for teachers' and doctors' salaries, the Competition Council must wrongly accuse those who pay the highest taxes in the country." 

"The company considers this CP decision to be unjustified and will appeal to the District Court using all statutory rights of defense," it added, saying "This is seen by the company as an effort to influence DEPO's defense [on the earlier charges], witnesses and court, while also weakening the company's image and reputation."

The company argued that because it was committed to offering the lowest possible prices it could not be part of any price fixing arrangements. It added that it is the largest national capital company in terms of turnover in Latvia, and has paid more than EUR 300 million in taxes.

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