Russia – Competition Authority in Corona Mode
Following Mr. Putin’s speech on 2 April 2020, measures promoting isolation such as nationwide non-working days and regional quarantine measures are being extended until end of April/beginning of May. This will also impact the activity of the Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service (FAS). It can be expected that at least the measures currently implemented by FAS will be extended. So far FAS has done the following in connection with the COVID-19 epidemics.
FAS has declared that the COVID-19 epidemics shall be regarded as force majeure in relation to government procurement, which according to FAS shall be taken into account inter alia when considering potential administrative liability. In addition, the procurement of goods required for fighting the COVID-19 epidemics has been eased, with purchases from just one supplier being permitted.
Inspections and Hearings
FAS has temporarily put on hold regular on-site inspections, with an exception for unscheduled inspections in certain cases. Comissions investigating antimonopoly cases work remotely, with the use of video-conference, or hearings can be postponed observing all required deadlines. Initially this measure has been limited until 10 April 2020, with an extension being likely in light of the overall situation with COVID-19.
Review of Prices
Similar to the European competition authorities FAS is paying attention to prevent abuse of this extraordinary situation. A particular area of ongoing review by FAS is the pricing of certain “socially important” goods. This comprises the monitoring of basic food products and weekly reporting to the Russian government. FAS has also been monitoring the pricing of face masks as well as mobile phone tariffs, the latter in connection with the increased use of mobile communication due to widespread work from home.
FAS has held that an advertisement for the medicine “Arbidol” violates Russian advertisement law. The medicine was apparently being advertised as being effective against Coronavirus. FAS based its decision in particular on the fact that the effectiveness against Coronavirus was allegedly beyond the effect as described in the instructions for that medicine which foresaw its use mainly against influenza.
Merger Control and Strategic Investment Filings
As for review of merger control filings as well as so-called “strategic investment” filings, there have been no changes in the review periods so far. Bearing in mind that FAS is entitled to prolong the standard 1-month term of review of merger control filings for another two months, FAS has a certain flexibility. However, extensions can be expected.