Motorway toll operator takes further legal action against competition authority

Photo: Tomáš Jelen / Czech Radio

The Austrian company Kapsch has filed another lawsuit against the Office for the Protection of Competition. It accuses the agency of inaction in ignoring a court ruling under which it was ordered to re-examine Kapsch’s objections to the terms of a tender to operate the tolling system on Czech motorways.

Photo: Tomáš Jelen / Czech Radio
Last week the Office for the Protection of Competition issued a statement denying it had failed to respect the court’s decision and saying it was acting fully in line with the law.

This is the third time Kapsch has filed suits against the anti-trust office. In the first, the Austrian firm, which currently administers the toll system, complained that its objections to a tender process had not been sufficiently addressed.

In May the Regional Court in Brno ruled that the Office for the Protection of Competition must indeed reconsider Kapsch’s points.

Earlier this month the same court upheld a second legal petition, under which the company sought an investigation into the toll contract the Czech state signed with the consortium CzechToll/SkyToll, winner of the competition.

Kapsch argues that this deal was done unlawfully as at the time of its ratification an interim measure preventing the contract from being concluded was in place.

The Austrian company says that the Office for the Protection of Competition has not yet taken cognizance of the court’s ruling in the case of the first lawsuit.

A spokesperson for Kapsch said it was “incredible” that the agency charged with overseeing the fairness of public tenders was ignoring legally-binding court decisions and “literally doing what it likes”.

The representative said there was a danger the Office for the Protection of Competition would take the exact same approach in the case of the July ruling.

For its part, the Office for the Protection of Competition has taken a complaint against the May court ruling to the Supreme Administrative Court. It also appealed for a delay in the implementation of the Regional Court’s ruling, which was rejected.

An electronic tolling system for trucks was introduced in the Czech Republic in 2007. It is now in place on 1,400 kilometres of motorway and selected first class roads.

Kapsch has operated the system from the beginning. However, as of December this year the current microwave technology will be replaced by a satellite system operated by CzechToll/SkyToll, winner of a CZK 10.75 billion Ministry of Transport tender to run it for 10 years.