President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Artemyev, I know that you wanted to report to me on some issues related to the sale of state property and the work of foreign operators in our market. Let’s start with the first issue. Go ahead, please.
Head of the Federal Anti-Monopoly Service Igor Artemyev: Thank you very much for this meeting, Mr President.
I would like to say that we have 50 laws and regulations on the sale of property, and any property – be it confiscated goods, forest or other land, or any other state property – is sold under different procedures. Notices on these sales are published in the middle of nowhere and even an experienced tracker cannot find these announcements. As a result, everything ends up in the hands of certain individuals and little goes to the treasury.
To begin with, there is an easy way out of this: the creation of an integrated website on the sale of state property. In general, if the state decides to sell a property, what is the main goal? To sell it for more money.
Vladimir Putin: Of course, to make more money for the treasury.
Igor Artemyev: If there are any defence or security restrictions, Law No. 57 works well to impose them.
This has been going on for 20 years. In principle, we have prepared a short draft law on competition for the Government. It is enough to introduce just five lines into these 50 legislative acts and accomplish a very simple goal. First, every sale needs to be posted online in an e-format – either through an e-tender or an e-auction with bidding – and any individual or company should be able to read about the sale of a property under any legislation on a single (integrated) website. And many buyers collect whole pools. Say, someone wants a property with a water area, and a house that includes some forestland. Where will they collect all these properties? On different websites? They will buy a plot of land in a different place, water area will be located elsewhere, and so on.
For example, I have never seen a notice on the sale of confiscated goods or material evidence with expired period of storage in my life, like limousines and dachas. Where are they?
But once we really had such a case and opened it officially. A Lamborghini was sold to an individual for 100,000 rubles. Of course, it was returned to the treasury but this is a fact.
In the past few years, Rosimushchestvo (the Federal Agency for State Property Management) has carried out several interesting and positive initiatives, but to resolve this problem once and for all, I would like to ask you, Mr President, to support this initiative. The Government has dealt with it. The only question is whether to introduce these five lines into the law on competition or create a separate law. The Government will decide this.
Vladimir Putin: This is a technical issue. On the whole, this is absolutely the right thing to do and modern electronic tools make it possible to do it fairly quickly and efficiently.
Igor Artemyev: Thank you very much.
Now the second question, and it is not even so much about communications providers. In the past few years, we have opened big cases against Google, Apple and Microsoft. They violate any regulation they can and do it deliberately. In the case of Google, the court passed several verdicts in favour of the Russian Federation. We had to follow them for two and a half years to make them fulfil our instructions.
Vladimir Putin: What exactly did they violate?
Igor Artemyev: The problem was that they preinstalled their applications and did not allow Russian designers to access their platform. In other words, we were not allowed to install our platforms there even if we wanted to.
Vladimir Putin: But this is simply a violation of the principles of competition.
Igor Artemyev: Of course. After we did this, within two years, the European Commission fined these companies $5 billion for this. So, we must curb this, effectively. We have proposals on how this can be done.
There is yet another aspect that concerns every citizen. In cooperation with Rospotrebnadzor (the Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare) we conducted the following research over the past eighteen months: we decide to compare original goods sold in Western Europe with the same item sold in Russia. The goods were called “original,” which means they were supposed to be the same no matter whether they were sold in Western Europe or Russia. What’s the difference? Using chemical and organoleptic techniques we established that in many cases dishonest companies – and we checked many firms – send us surrogates. To check the chemical composition we simply used a chromatograph. It is very easy to compare these goods with the original products. So we buy goods, bring them here, and then we buy them in Russia and they look the same but the actual content is very different.
We opened the first three cases in cooperation with Rospotrebnadzor. We now inspect alcohol, beer and food – all imports – and we intend to continue this.
Vladimir Putin: You don’t want to mention the names of the companies that were involved in these discrepancies now, do you?
Igor Artemyev: These are Henkel and Lindt that makes chocolate and detergents and many others.
Vladimir Putin: All right. You can tell us about this in more detail now.
Igor Artemyev: Thank you.