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The TCA's the Talk of the Town in Turkiye: A Buzz Interview with Bahadir Balki of Actecon

The TCA's the Talk of the Town in Turkiye: A Buzz Interview with Bahadir Balki of Actecon

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The Turkish Competition Authority's proactive measures in various sectors have been the element to follow in Turkiye according to Actecon Managing Partner Bahadir Balki, with the TCA's current priorities including labor market investigations, resale price maintenance, and digital market regulations.

"The Turkish Competition Authority has been very active in recent times," Balki begins. "One of the hottest topics on their agenda is the labor market, which has become a focal point globally. Since 2021, the TCA has launched comprehensive investigations into HR markets, conducting seven investigations so far. They have completed four, resulting in monetary fines, while three are still ongoing," Balki explains, adding that a key takeaway is that "the TCA views 'no-poach' agreements as a hardcore cartel violation. This is where their concentration lies."

Besides the labor market, Balki reports that the TCA is also placing a significant focus on resale price maintenance, particularly in the cosmetics and food sectors. "There have been numerous investigations in these areas, and most concluded with monetary and settlement fines." Moreover, Balki indicates that "digital markets are also a major area of interest for the TCA, similar to other competition authorities worldwide. They have introduced a forward-looking sector-specific merger threshold, particularly for tech-related fields such as software, gaming software, pharmacology, biotechnologies, agrochemicals, digital platforms, health tech, and fintech. This approach deserves credit as it aims at dealing with 'start-up acquisitions' by bringing legal certainty for transaction parties in terms of the merger control regime."

Comparing the TCA's approach to that of other international competition authorities, Balki says that the TCA is in talks with its peers in other jurisdictions, including the European Commission and the UK's Competition and Markets Authority. "A recent notable development was a joint dawn raid conducted by the TCA, the European Commission, and the CMA in an investigation into the construction chemicals market. This unprecedented collaboration highlights the increasing cooperation between competition authorities across different jurisdictions and is a clear signal that the TCA is aligning its practices with international standards and taking a proactive stance in maintaining competitive markets," Balki stresses.

However, there are challenges as well, with one of the most debated issues being excessive/unjust pricing. "The Turkish Ministry of Trade has a tool to fine suppliers deemed to be engaging in excessive/unjust pricing, which is particularly contentious due to the complexities of defining what constitutes excessive/unjust pricing in different market contexts," Balki goes on to say. "This tool has been increasingly used, reflecting enforcement priorities"

Looking ahead to the back half of 2024, Balki says that "the TCA is expected to continue its rigorous enforcement. A DMA-like Turkish regulation is on its way and is expected to become a part of Turkish competition law in the second half of the year.  Observers are keen to see how the TCA will apply it in digital markets, especially given the global attention on digital economy regulations. Additionally, while there is no single sector leading the charge in Turkiye, the overall competition landscape remains very dynamic and active." Ultimately, Balki concludes that the TCA's current trajectory reflects a "commitment to maintaining fair competition and aligning with international practices" and that such a proactive stance is "essential for fostering a healthy market environment."

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