Bulgaria anti-trust regulator fines Billa, Lidl retail chains
Bulgaria’s Commission for Protection of Competition (CPC) has fined retailers Billa for unfair competition practices and misleading advertising. Billa was fined 483 000 leva (about 247 000 euro) and Lidl was fined 371 000 leva (about 189 600 euro).
The regulator said that Billa misled consumers with the campaign claiming that its in-house brand, Clever, offered the lowest possible price compared to competing brands. The campaign conditions did not stipulate that Billa would automatically reduce its own prices if competing products were found to be cheaper, nor did the retailer reduce its prices when its monitoring found lower prices offered by competitors.
“Thus, CPC accepts that the advertising campaign creates the risk that consumers may be misled into thinking that they would pay lower prices for products under the Clever brand than for comparable goods in competing retail chains,” the regulator said.
Lidl was fined for two violations – the first was its advertising campaign, claiming that the chain offered “the best from Bulgaria, the best from Europe”, without presenting any objective proof, such as market research or comparative studies, that would back its claim. At the same time, however, the regulator said that the campaign did not target specific products or competitors.
The second violation is that Lidl marked products with a “Made in Bulgaria” logo without having the right to do so. Since it is not a foodstuffs manufacturer, Lidl is not a member of the “Made in Bulgaria” association and had no right to use such a logo, potentially misleading consumers.
The two retailers have been ordered to end their advertising campaigns within a week of the CPC announcement, which was published on the regulator’s website on January 2. The decisions can be appealed in court.
(Photo: Vera Reis/sxc.hu)