On 31 October 2019, the Mexican Competition Commission (the 'Commission' or COFECE) published in the Federal Official Gazette, official notices informing the following two investigations have been initiated in the petroleum products' market:
- File DE-009-2019, for alleged cartel conducts in the domestic market of gasoline and diesel sold at public service stations. This investigation was formally initiated on 10 June 2019 following a complaint submitted by a third party.
- File IO-001-2019, for illegal concentration in the domestic market for the commercialization and distribution of gasoline and diesel in Mexico, as well as the dispensing of these products at service stations. This investigation was formally initiated ex-officio on 15 September 2019.
Both investigations have an administrative nature, since COFECE has not yet identified concrete actions, neither the companies -- nor individuals -- that could be responsible for infringing the Mexican Competition Law (MCL). The term of the investigation is of up to 120 business days, which may be extended up to four times, for 120 additional business days each.
If during the investigation, COFECE retrieves sufficient evidence to support a potential violation to the MCL, COFECE is empowered to conduct an administrative proceeding in the form of a trial, by issuing an official communication of alleged responsibility. Afterwards, and if COFECE finds any company -- or individual -- as guilty, it may impose administrative fines, in addition to any civil and/or criminal liability that may result.
It is worth mentioning that the energy sector is a high priority for COFECE, due to the transversal impact it has on the development of the rest of economic sectors. COFECE has continuously shown itself committed to achieving an efficient and competitive fuels market by publishing documents that pinpointed a series of obstacles that may affect the transition to a more competitive Mexican fuels market.
Actions to Consider
During the ongoing investigation, COFECE is empowered to request any type of information from any company active in the investigated or related markets, conduct down raids and subpoena companies or individuals that it considers as relevant to the probable infringements to the MCL. Therefore, these company shall be prepared to properly and strategically respond to any request served by COFECE. Additionally, relevant companies and individuals should consider the implementation and strengthening of antitrust compliance programs and policies, monitoring and training to mitigate potential risks.