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CPI TV Ten Minutes With HCC President Ioannis Lianos

 |  July 28, 2021

Below, we have provided the full transcript of the interview with Ioannis Lianos, president of the Hellenic Competition Commission (HCC), recorded on July 22, 2021.

This is part of a series of videos that CPI is producing where we will interview the heads of various NCAs all around the world.

Thank you, President Lianos, for sharing your time for this interview with CPI.

A video of the complete interview is available HERE.



Hi, everyone, and thank you for tuning in for one of our exclusive talks with the heads of competition authorities from around the world. Today we have the pleasure to have with us Mr. Ioannis Lianos, professor of Global Competition Law and Public Policy at UCL and since 2019, president of the Hellenic Competition Commission. Good morning, Professor Lianos, and thank you for accepting our invitation and being with us today.

Ioannis Lianos B/W

Ioannis LIANOS:

Good morning, Elisa. Very nice to meet you again.


Thank you. I’d like to kick off by asking how the Hellenic Competition Commission has dealt with the pandemic crisis, and are there any learning experiences that you would like to share with us today?


Well, thank you very much. Definitely, the pandemic has been a quite important challenge. Actually, it came almost six months after I took office, so I only had, during my time as president of the authority, six months of normality. I would say even a little bit less than that. Most of the time, we had to deal with a situation in crisis, obviously, the pandemic. So, the first important issue that we had to consider was to maintain the functioning of the competition authority during this difficult period.

The competition authority of Greece, unfortunately at the time I joined, did not really have IT capabilities. We had to very quickly make the necessary investments to ensure that we could move to teleworking. I think we managed to do that very quickly, and we have been among the first authorities, public authorities in Greece, to put in place teleworking for almost all of our staff. That also included the meetings of the board of the Hellenic Competition Commission, and obviously we had to put in place the necessary changes in our legislation and internal regulations so as to be able to have these meetings of the board, in particular for merger cases, but also for antitrust cases, through teleconferencing.

Also, we had to deal as main authorities with the situation of the market which was drastically changing with this supply and demand shock occurring. So, we had to devise mechanisms to somehow limit the competition law problems that this could have. We have been, I think, the first authority that issued a recommendation with regards to maximum resale price maintenance, basically somehow inspiring the rest of the ICN and the other commissions to issue a joint statement that mentioned this as a possibility.

We also created a website; a specific website on our authority’s website that provided information to companies and citizens about the different competition law issues that emerged. It was sort of a list of all the various initiatives that competition authorities around the world were taking to deal with the crisis, as well as what companies around the world were doing to deal with the crisis. We actually put in place a help desk in order to provide information to anyone who wanted to see if they could cooperate, if the specific type of actions that we were envisioning were compatible with competition law.

And to a certain extent, this event, the pandemic, provided us with the opportunity to somehow move to a more digital HCC, Hellenic Competition Commission. We started and we put in place a system of digital services for consumers and citizens, so they could place a complaint through electronic means or follow a little bit the way their complaints and their different cases were dealt with by the authority. We created a platform, an in house platform – the HCC economic intelligence and data analytics platform – that is actually a quite unique system which collects and harvests information from all major supermarkets about the thousands of products every day, as well as other types of data that is available publicly.

For instance, the data from the local markets in terms of fresh products, data coming out of the e-fuels database, which includes the price of fuels across the country. So all this data is now collected to the central platform of the Hellenic Competition Commission, and this platform actually will have various dashboards that enable us to very quickly analyze this data and see market tendencies. Also, we placed, in cooperation with a number of economists, screening tools in order to help us identify situations where we might need to have more information from the specific companies and where are somehow red flags about possible anti-competitive behavior.

This system has been put in place for a few months, and it operates right now very well. It provides us with a very good understanding of the market tendencies, and we are expanding the system to also include public procurements so as to be able to do a sort of a bid rigging type of cartel screening, as well as adding new products to take advantage of our interactions with price comparison websites, et cetera. You can harvest more information that could provide this platform to help make this platform much more effective for us.

This also gave us the opportunity to put in place a whistleblower system which is also through our platform, and we have seen quite considerable advantages to this system. The leniency policy in Greece hasn’t really functioned very well, although it has been there for some time. Because the market is pretty small, everyone knows everyone so it’s pretty difficult in this context for a leniency policy to work. The fact that we had the pandemic and the fact that we have been thinking more digitally enabled us to put in place this anonymous whistleblower information platform, and that has been in place for a few months now.

That has led us to some interesting cases that could open through information that was actually provided to us through this whistleblower platform. So, in a way, the crisis has been a major challenge for us, but also an opportunity to change. I think it created a culture of change with the staff at the authority, so some things that would have required more time for people to get acquainted to and organize had to be done very, very quickly. And we can now reap the benefits of this digitalization as our processes have been streamlined.

There’s more transparency in the way the authority works, and we have a good basis to increase this reliance on digital means, in particular, in the context of the IT forensic type of work that authorities need to develop a bit further.

So with regards to that, I have to say that we put in place a new unit: an IT forensic unit. We are now proceeding to the recruitment of a Chief Technology Officer and a team of data scientists that will help us use artificial intelligence tools, deep learning, and machine learning in our cases, and we have also procured software that we use.

It’s a quite advance software that we use to augment the capacity of our staff to analyze big data, and quite important sources of information we collect in downgrades, for instance. Let me also add that the Greek authority has been one of the few that proceeded to downgrade during the periods of the crisis. Also, I mean, the last couple of months we have proceeded with a number of downgrades, and I think that’s very important. I mean, always respecting having specific protocols and respecting actually the public health requirements that are needed for protection for both of our staff, but also of a company’s staff that we are investigating.

I think this was extremely important for us to continue to pursue, because it’s very important to keep a little bit of the deterrent effects of a competition authority during the period of crisis. It was part of the strategy that we developed for whenever we had a window of opportunity because we’re not in lockdown. For instance, we already have organized a down rate that could help us progress an investigation, and also provide a message to the market that we’re still here and we’re taking our role very seriously. These were a summary of some of the challenges and opportunities that we had to deal with during the time of the pandemic and we’re still dealing with them actually.


Thank you. And thank you so much for being with us today.


Thank you very much. It was very nice to meet you again. Bye.