Greece’s competition commission (HCC) has handed down a blistering fine of €24.6m to Greek gambling giant OPAP for leveraging its exclusivity over certain gambling products to restrict competition in other service areas.
The fine was issued after several complaints were lodged claiming that OPAP’s non-compete clauses in its agreements with retail agents were against both Greek and European law.
The commission cited Articles 1 and 2 of Law 3959/2011, which protects free market competition in Greece. The HCC also found OPAP’s practices to be in violation of Articles 101 and 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).
The HCC wrote in its announcement that OPAP “imposes on the agencies, in relation to ancillary services, a non-compete and exclusivity clause on its behalf”.
OPAP has a statutory monopoly on certain gambling products such as retail sports betting and video lottery terminals. However, the company inserted clauses in its agent agreements “which not only protects its already very strong position in terms of the main gambling market but [also] those concerning bill payment and intermediation for the distribution and sale of telecom products, for which no statutory monopoly has been granted, eliminating not only actual but also potential competition.”
In a statement on its website, OPAP vowed to contest the HCC's judgment and fine.
The company said that the decision was based not on OPAP's gaming business but on bill payment services and mobile top-up services “in which there is intense and fair competition".
The ruling also resulted from “a defective collection of data, a delinquent examination of the evidence presented and a fully arbitrary interpretation of the effective strict and cohesive regulatory framework governing the operation of OPAP agencies, including the provision of the said services”.
OPAP added that it would have been exonerated if crucial data from the Bank of Greece had been considered as part of the process.
Under the HCC ruling, OPAP also faces a €10,000 fine for every day that it remains in violation of Greek competition law.