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.
The Competition Authority recently carried out a dawn raid at the premises of N Sport and acquired copies of agreements that the company had entered into with its customers. The agreements contained provisions obliging customers and retailers to comply with minimum retail prices set by N Sport when reselling their products. The concerned undertakings are at risk of severe fines of up to 10% of the total turnover generated in 2015, while the agreements could be declared null and void.
During 2015 the Competition Authority issued 68 decisions concerning merger control, the abuse of dominant positions and state aid and 32 opinions concerning competition law and state aid law. Further, the authority issued a number of significant fines in decisions relating to cartels and the abuse of dominant positions. Taking into account the available human and financial resources, the authority is satisfied with the results achieved in 2015.
The Competition Authority recently adopted a decision conditionally clearing an acquisition in the sugar market in Serbia. As the resulting market share aggregation in the affected markets ranges from 60% to 80%, the Competition Authority recommended the introduction of operational requirements and restrictions to prevent any negative effects resulting from market saturation.
The Competition Authority recently published a statement clarifying the rules on submitting a merger notification based on the serious intent to implement a transaction (eg, a letter of intent). The authority pointed out that, when notifying a concentration on the basis of serious intent, the undertakings concerned assume the risk of any consequence that may result. If a letter of intent differs from the final agreement entered into by the parties following the authority's decision, they risk incurring a fine.
The Competition Authority recently investigated alleged abuse of dominance in the railway traffic market by state-owned railway company Zelezice Srbije. The authority determined that Zelezice Srbije was the only company operating railway traffic in the country and thus took measures to secure the establishment of effective competition in the market for access to public railway infrastructure.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition recently hosted several competition events, demonstrating its determination to cooperate with other competition authorities. So far this year, commission representatives took part in the Eighth Sofia Competition Forum, visited the Romanian Competition Authority and co-organised an international conference on institution building between the national competition authorities of Southeast Europe.
The Competition Authority recently conducted a dawn raid on the Belgrade premises of Philip Morris and British American Tobacco on the suspicion that competition infringement had occurred. The authority also initiated ex officio procedures, as it suspected that the companies had conspired in order to align prices. This is the authority's second dawn raid involving the tobacco market.
The Competition Authority recently investigated four companies for bid rigging in a tender organised by the Ministry of Defence for the procurement of uniforms and shoes in 2013. It fined them a total of approximately €300,000 and prohibited them from participating as bidders in public procurement for the next 18 months.
The Competition Authority recently launched several competition law infringement investigations, including an investigation against Belgrade's public utility company Infostan. Without having consulted the service receivers, Infostan included costs for insurance in a monthly invoice. Accordingly, the authority began an investigation, alleging that Infostan had abused its dominant position.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition recently published its 2014 annual report, in which it outlines the developments of the previous year. The commission issued 41 decisions in administrative proceedings, four opinions under the Competition Act and 19 opinions under the State Aid Control Act. It also decided 10 cases in misdemeanour proceedings and imposed fines totalling Md233,530,047.
The Competition Authority has cleared leading pharmaceutical company Hemofarm's acquisition of family business Ivančić i sinovi, even though Hemofarm is expected to slightly increase its market share. The authority has also cleared Antenna Stream TV Limited Kipar's acquisition of Lake Blade Holding; both parties operate in the media market.
The Commission for Protection of Competition recently issued two decisions in proceedings against East Media Group (EMG) because of a reasonable assumption that a transaction had been implemented without obtaining merger control clearance. The commission fined EMG for failure to comply with its order to deliver the data and documentation required for the transaction's assessment.
In a decision that could have significant implications on future practice, the Competition Authority recently reviewed non-compete obligations between parties to a merger. The concentration was cleared unconditionally. However, the non-compete obligations were considered to be severe restrictions of competition and the authority refused individual exemptions.
The Commission for Protection of Competition has recently issued two conditional merger clearances concerning international transactions. The Holcim and Lafarge transaction resulted in a significant overlap between the parties' activities in the Serbian cement market, while the transaction between Alitalia and Etihad Airways involved the acquisition of joint control over a newly founded company that would control Alitalia's aviation business.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition has introduced a settlement proposal to the proceeding for determining a competition law violation. Undertakings against which proceedings are initiated can submit a settlement proposal only once the commission has issued a statement of objections. The commission is under no obligation to accept the settlement proposal.
The Commission for Protection of Competition recently decided to open an ex officio investigation against the Bar Association due to allegations that it had violated competition law rules on the legal services market in Serbia. The commission found that prescribing high fees for admission to the Bar directly restricts competition and creates unjustified market entry barriers.