In its recent statements to UK construction titles and on social media Velux has made clear that it believes the European Commission has found in its favour against a ‘smear campaign by FAKRO’. Fakro believes that much of what has been said is untrue and highly misleading.
FAKRO’s position is based on the official response it has received from the European Commission in which it states that ‘it is not prepared to open formal proceedings to investigate a complaint of unfair trading practices by the VELUX Group’. Its decision has been attributed by the Commissioner to ‘exercising a right to set priorities’ and not, as claimed by Velux, to a conclusion in its favour. This is despite the fact that FAKRO’s lengthy submissions and extensive evidence have been awaiting action by the Commission for more than six years. All the Commission has now done is to confirm a complete failure to work to its terms of reference.
Ryszard Florek, President of FAKRO commented: “We have been experiencing an unfavourable reaction from the Commission since the outset. To simply make a decision to do nothing after so long due to ‘prioritisation’ confirms that it has not dealt with any of the evidence. FAKRO does, however, retain hope that the European Ombudsman will investigate our complaint of maladministration”.
In concluding that it does not intend to carry out an in-depth investigation and assess allegations of predatory pricing, the Commission justified this by saying ‘it would require a full economic assessment and analysis of extensive data’. Its reference to ‘… a potentially long and labour-intensive exercise which would require use of significant Commission resources…’ at least acknowledges the extent of information that FAKRO has submitted. The Commission’s conclusion has been no more than that ‘it does not prejudge whether a competitor has abused a dominant position or not’.
Ryszard Florek added, “We would have been satisfied with any substantive decision arising from a proper investigation of the evidence. Such a decision would have made clear which practices relating to competition are fair and which are not”.
In its initial press release VELUX stated that the Commission ‘found no breaches of competition rules by VELUX’ and that ‘because the Commission investigated the case, we have decided not to comment on it out of respect for the authorities’ work’. Its LinkedIn statement refers also to ‘…a firm and factual rebuttal of countless allegations…. and demonstrates the importance of a clear stance to competition law compliance and a deeply rooted compliance culture to support it’.
Given that the Commission did at least make one thing very clear – that it had not been prepared to investigate the complaint, any compliance or failure to do so remains unproven.
Ryszard Florek concluded, “I find the unfair campaign carried out by Velux against FAKRO on the Polish and European markets very regrettable, not least because our competitor came up with its own interpretation of the decision of Danish commissioner as a proof of not breaking the law”.
In the near future FAKRO will provide examples of evidence presented to the European Commission of the unfair practices referred to in the complaint.