The Competition Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina recently set out its objectives and priorities for 2018 in its 2018 Work Programme. One of the council's medium-term objectives is to make market regulation more efficient with the aim of strengthening competition protection. The council has also stressed its dedication to improving its expertise and administrative capacity.
The Competition Authority, together with the Ministry for Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications, recently lodged an initiative for the new Competition Act, which will replace the Competition Act 2009. The goal is to harmonise the new act with EU rules while observing the specific demands of the Serbian market. Once the draft is ready, it will be presented for public debate. Further, the authority has issued three draft block regulations for public review and comment.
In September 2017 the Competition Authority officially closed the investigation into the mobile phone retail market which it opened following three complaints regarding alleged coordinated practices and potential abuse of dominant position. The authority issued a number of recommendations and intends to continue to monitor the mobile phone retail market until October 2018.
The Competition Authority recently initiated an investigation into the mobile phone market in connection with alleged coordinated practices and potential abuse of the dominant position of the market players. It had been alleged that three telecommunications operators had coordinated a change in standard pre-paid packages.
In 2016 the Competition Authority issued 52 decisions relating to merger control, abuse of dominance and restrictive practices. No fines were imposed in any of the decisions. The authority also reviewed and commented on numerous legislation proposals, including the production and marketing of tobacco and cigarettes and airport fees.
During 2016 the Competition Authority issued 111 merger control decisions. Most of the notifying parties involved were foreign companies, while notifications filed by domestic companies made up approximately 24% of all filed notifications. The Competition Authority, which proved to be one of the busiest in the region, also conducted a number of sector inquiries.
The process for appointing new Competition Council members is now complete and operational. Specific and complex rules exist for the composition of the council and for it to pass decisions. Among other things, there must be two members representing each of the three constituent ethnic groups of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ie, two Serbs, two Bosnians and two Croatians).
The Commission for the Protection of Competition recently determined that two breweries were engaged in resale price maintenance. The breweries had entered into agreements that contained price-fixing provisions and distributors were allegedly restricted from independently determining resale prices.
The Competition Authority recently determined that two edible sunflower oil market competitors (Vital and Victoriaoil) had concluded a restrictive agreement that limited the production of edible oil and inhibited competition on the market. The authority imposed a fine of 0.33% of the total annual turnover generated in 2014 on the Serbian market. This was the first production cooperation agreement analysed by the authority.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition was the 2017 recipient of an honourable mention at the 2016-2017 Competition Advocacy Contest: Innovative Advocacy Strategies to Address Market Challenges. The article which brought the commission this recognition deals with implementing competition advocacy in government policymaking.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition recently adopted a decision to conduct a retail market study. The study will help to determine the relations between competitors on the retail market at the local, regional and national level. The study is also designed to encompass the wholesale market. The market study results will enable the commission to conduct an ex post assessment of the major concentrations that were carried out in the previous period.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition conditionally cleared the concentration brought about by Serbia Broadband's acquisition of Interaktivne kablovske objedinjene mreže. During the investigation, the commission obtained all of the necessary data, information and opinions on the effects of the concentration from the parties' competitors, broadcasters and independent regulatory bodies responsible for the data relevant to the proceedings.
The Competition Council's main activities in 2016 included issuing opinions and conducting proceedings pursuant to requests filed by undertakings or ex officio. A total of 50% of the cases filed were processed in 2016, while the remaining cases have been carried over to 2017. The council's total income from administrative fees in 2016 was KM234,574 (approximately €115,000), while collected fines reached KM624,492 (approximately €610,000).
The president of the Competition Commission, Miloje Obradović, recently spoke at the Sub-committee on Internal Market and Competition meeting. He briefed the European Commission on all of the activities undertaken to implement the Competition Act and on the level of harmonisation of Serbian competition legislation with the acquis communautaire. Obradović emphasised that future sectoral analyses will focus on the markets that have caught the commission's attention in the past.
The Competition Commission recently issued a decision determining that Bora Kečić and Large Transport had engaged in bid rigging in a public tender procedure launched by public utility company Elektromreže Srbije. By entering into a restrictive agreement, these undertakings significantly restricted and distorted competition. The commission issued fines of approximately €8,000 per company.
The Competition Commission recently issued a decision determining that EPS Distribucija doo Beograd – the only operator on the Serbian electricity distribution market – abused its dominant position. The company was fined €3 million and issued with behavioural remedies aimed at creating equal conditions for doing business on the market. The commission took into account EPS Distribucija's cooperation during the proceedings.
The Foreign Investors Council recently presented the 2016 edition of the White Book – an overview of the traditional business climate in Serbia and recommendations for its improvement. The document notes considerable progress in the work of the Commission for the Protection of Competition. Key improvements include the adoption of the new Merger Notification Decree and the provision of information on the commission's work.
The Competition Authority intends to conduct a competition assessment on the retail market, focusing on non-specialised stores selling mainly food, beverages and tobacco. In the past 10 years in Serbia, there has been significant consolidation of the food retail and distribution market, which has affected the commercial relationship between retailers and their suppliers. The assessment should contribute to a better understanding of this relationship and its possible effects on competition.
The Competition Authority recently published the Aftermarkets Analysis, which covers warranties, repair services and the sale and use of spare parts for automotive and household appliance industries. The aim of the analysis was to determine the market structure and the relationship between leading undertakings in order to detect any shortcomings in the market. The results will be used to draft a decree on group exemption from the prohibition of vertical agreements in the motor vehicle sector.
The Competition Council aims to improve its quality system in order to comply with EU legislation and enhance competition law enforcement in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The council's recently published work programme outlines its objectives and priorities for 2017 and ensures its transparency for business and expert communities. The council has stressed that certain issues may arise in the implementation of the work programme, which may affect relevant tasks and activities.