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Competencia

La importancia de los remedios conductuales y obligaciones de comportamiento al término de un procedimiento sancionador

Escrito por Yeny Luna*

La Ley de Competencia (LC) en su Art. 38 inciso tercero, prescribe que cuando se sancione por prácticas anticompetitivas, además de la imposición de multas, se ordenará el cese de las mismas y se establecerán las condiciones u obligaciones necesarias para garantizar su materialización, pudiendo ser tales condiciones y obligaciones, estructurales o de comportamiento.

En dicho artículo queda de manifiesto uno de los objetivos esenciales de la LC que es prevenir y eliminar las prácticas anticompetitivas, a través del cese de las mismas. Este tipo de facultades son delegadas de forma muy particular a las autoridades de competencia a fin de preservar o restablecer las condiciones de competencia en un determinado mercado.

En ese sentido, el ordenamiento jurídico salvadoreño permite imponer medidas denominadas condiciones u obligaciones que pueden ser de dos tipos, estructurales y conductuales las cuales en el derecho comparado se definen como remedios y son aplicados como consecuencia de una trasgresión por prácticas anticompetitivas, además de la sanción, o como requisitos para la aprobación de una operación de concentraciones que presente riesgos o una posible afectación para la competencia.

Los remedios estructurales son instrumentos preventivos alternos a la prohibición, y son usados para remover elementos que distorsionan las condiciones de competencia del mercado. Allendesalazar (2008)[1] los define como las medidas “que permiten romper los vínculos entre una empresa y sus activos”.  Ello se debe a que limitan y modifican la capacidad productiva de una empresa y suponen la enajenación de activos; por ello, en algunos países son denominados desinversiones. Se caracterizan por ser irreversibles y por no requerir control y supervisión  a posteriori por parte de la autoridad de competencia.

Los remedios conductuales son medidas que afectan el comportamiento o una conducta específica de la empresa y conllevan a imponer restricciones de carácter prohibitivo – no puede hacer– o impositivo –obligada hacer-. Este tipo de remedios tienen el inconveniente de requerir la supervisión y la intervención de las autoridades de competencia durante la vigencia de las medidas.

Aun cuando la jurisprudencia internacional muestra que los remedios de comportamiento se han aplicado con más frecuencia que los remedios estructurales, siempre es necesario valorar caso a caso la necesidad de imponerlos, debido a que existen conductas que incuestionablemente los requieren.

Resulta oportuno traer a colación la opinión de expertos[2] en el derecho de competencia, quienes consideran que existe una diferencia importante entre los remedios y sanciones en el ámbito de las políticas de competencia. En el sentido que las medidas llamadas Remedios son utilizadas para intentar corregir o prevenir conductas anticompetitivas, mientras que las Sanciones son las acciones que las castigan mediante la imposición de multas, generalmente con suficiente carácter disuasorio para desincentivar futuras prácticas lesivas de la competencia.

La LC de El Salvador permite imponer sanciones y ambos tipos de remedios, ya sea de forma separada o conjunta, dependiendo del objetivo que se persiga, y pueden tomar diferentes formas. Al revisar las decisiones emitidas por el Consejo Directivo (CD) de la Superintendencia de Competencia (SC) relativas a prácticas anticompetitivas, se observa que ambos tipos de remedios han sido aplicados, aunque no en todos los casos. En efecto, no siempre ha sido necesario imponer acciones o medidas específicas para terminar eficazmente la infracción a la competencia, ya que en algunos procedimientos basta una multa como acción represiva; mientras que en otros se requiere multa y orden de cese de la práctica; y en algunos pocos, además, condiciones u obligaciones específicas.

Respecto a la medida de “ordenar el cese de la práctica” es muy típico que al finalizar un procedimiento sancionador se exija al infractor poner fin inmediato a su conducta ilícita con el fin de restaurar la competencia en el mercado. Ante esta situación surge una interrogante, con esta única medida ¿se estaría ante remedios de tipo conductuales? O simplemente ante una advertencia paternalista de “deja de hacer eso y compórtate bien”. De hecho, parecería que una mera orden de alto podría resultar insuficiente para poner fin al comportamiento ilícito.

Jiménez y Prieto[3] (2008) analizan dicha situación y clasifican ese tipo de medida como un remedio conductual, de los cuales identifican dos categorías, a) los que establecen prohibiciones de no hacercese de la práctica considerada restrictiva a la competencia-; y b) los que establecen las obligaciones de hacer –  referentes a medidas específicas que se deben de cumplir-.  Por ejemplo, para los casos de abuso de posición dominante, consideran que el remedio típico suele consistir en una orden del cese de la práctica, que impone límites a la política comercial del infractor, refiriéndose a una conducta o conductas comerciales específicas que no puede hacer el agente dominante. Sin embargo, muchas veces resultan ineficientes y requiere que sean completadas con obligaciones de hacer, siempre de tipo conductual.

La SC ha aplicado este tipo de mecanismos. Por citar un caso reciente, en el procedimiento sancionador contra DIZUCAR el CD le impuso la multa máxima que la LC establece para estos casos, por haber abusado de su posición dominante al implementar acciones que obstaculizaban la entrada de nuevos competidores y la expansión de los existentes en el mercado de la distribución de azúcar blanca a nivel nacional. Además, le ordenó el cese de las conductas comprobadas y declaradas como anticompetitivas, que consistían en una discriminación de precios entre clientes por volumen de compra y la negativa de venta a sus potenciales competidores.

En la misma resolución se le impusieron una serie de remedios conductuales, entre ellas: a) abstenerse de discriminar precios en la venta de azúcar entre sus clientes, debiendo respetar los principios que rigen el Derecho de Competencia; b) la obligación de vender el azúcar sin restricciones de ningún tipo a cualquier comprador que lo requiera; c) suministrar a la SC, por un plazo de tres años, información mensual detallada sobre volúmenes y precios de venta; y d) publicar los precios de venta del azúcar, la política de precios que aplica; entre otras.

De lo anterior se advierte la imposición de remedios conductuales a un agente que abusó de su posición dominante, los cuales contienen límites a conductas comerciales específicas, es decir conductas que no debe hacer y son completadas con medidas y obligaciones que debe hacer. Todo ello con el objetivo de restaurar la competencia en el mercado y detener la conducta ilegal, a fin de que los competidores y consumidores no continúen siendo afectados.

En este propósito, hubiese sido inútil ordenarle únicamente a DIZUCAR que se abstuviera en lo sucesivo de continuar realizando las prácticas por las cuales fue sancionada. Sería como investigarle, procesarle, multarle y decirle “vete; desde ahora no peques más”. Es por ello que el legislador proveyó a la SC para que vaya más allá y pueda frenar las prácticas anticompetitivas, y logre cumplir así con su cometido de proteger la competencia.

En definitiva, es de reconocer la importancia que tienen los remedios conductuales y obligaciones de comportamiento al término de un procedimiento sancionador, lo cual significa el inicio de una nueva fase de seguimiento en cada caso por parte de la SC: ello implica un esfuerzo arduo para mantener incólume el objetivo de la institución a fin de que los ciudadanos y los empresarios gocen de los beneficios de la competencia.

 

* La autora es investigadora en prácticas anticompetitivas, en la Superintendencia de Competencia. Es licenciada en Administración de Empresas, con una maestría en Dirección de Empresas de la Universidad Centroamericana José Simeón Cañas (UCA) y con un máster universitario en Economía, Regulación y Competencia de los Servicios Públicos, con especialización en Servicios de Red (Energía y Telecomunicaciones), por la Universitat de Barcelona, España.

– Los comentarios en este artículo expresan la opinión del autor –

[1] Rafael ALLENDESALAZAR (2008) “Posibles Reacciones frente a eventuales restricciones de la competencia”  publicado en el libro “Remedios y sanciones en el derecho de la competencia” Santiago Martinez, Amadeo Petitbo (2008). Fundación Rafael del Pino, España

[2]  Organización para la Cooperación y el Desarrollo Económico (OCDE). “Remedies and Sanctions in Abuse of Dominance Cases  2006”. El Comité de Competencia de la OCDE debatió el tema de los remedios en casos de abuso de posición dominante en junio 2006 en la cual participó  Canadá, República Checa, la Comisión Europea, Francia, Alemania, Indonesia, Japón, Corea, Noruega, Rumania, España, Taipei Chino, Turquía, Suiza, el Reino Unido, y los Estados Unidos.

[3] Jiménez Latorre y Prieto Kessler (2008) “Remedios estructurales en casos de abusos de posición dominante”, NERA Economic Consulting.

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