The most important change introduced by recent amendments to the Competition Act is that a single authority will be responsible for protecting competition and state aid in Montenegro. As a result of Montenegro's accession to the European Union and its obligations under the Stabilisation and Association Agreement, the State Aid Commission's responsibilities will now fall within the remit of the Competition Agency.
The Competition Authority issued 28 merger control clearance decisions in 2016, conducted one dawn raid and implemented no fines. The authority has announced that, with the help of the EU Delegation to Montenegro, it plans to purchase forensic software and technical equipment in 2018 which will allow it to continue its investigation activities.
In 2016 the Competition Authority received 33 merger control notifications and issued 28 decisions. Most of the concentrations were in the telecommunications, media and pharmaceutical sectors. There was a slight decrease of approximately 6% in the number of merger control notifications submitted in 2016 in comparison to 2015.
The Competition Authority recently conducted a dawn raid at the premises of Sava Trans doo in Cetinje to collect the data required for it to proceed with a case. Throughout the raid, authority officials acted in compliance with legislation and Sava Trans maintained a high level of cooperation.
The Competition Protection Agency recently adopted its 2017 Financial Plan, which includes strengthening administrative capacity, conducting dawn raids and preventing competition infringement. Further, the European Commission determined in its annual report that there is a need for the agency to strengthen its administrative capacity and issued a recommendation for the agency to increase the number of its employees.
A Technical Assistance and Information Exchange regional workshop on the enhancement of cooperation between Western Balkan competition authorities was recently held in Podgorica, Montenegro.The Montenegrin Competition Agency director noted that it is necessary to ensure a uniform competition law approach in the Western Balkans, mainly in order to help both foreign and regional investors feel protected against actions that could put the equality of all market participants at risk.
From 2014 to 2016 the Competition Authority was part of a project sponsored by the European Commission concerning the alignment of competition legislation in Montenegro with EU standards. The project results show that competition policy improved significantly between 2014 and 2016, and that increased court support with the implementation of fines will be introduced to aid further development.
The Competition Authority recently published its 2014 annual report, revealing that in 2014 a total of 25 decisions were rendered. Four of the decisions concerned joint ventures and the rest were about the acquisition of control. Notably for participants in foreign-to-foreign transactions, only six notifications concerned the Montenegrin market, while 19 notified transactions were classified as extraterritorial.
The Competition Authority is investigating Telemach ad Podgorica's intended acquisition of M-Kabl doo Montenegro. It has established that both parties are competitors in at least seven municipalities within Montenegro and that the market is already extremely concentrated.
The competition authorities of Serbia, Montenegro and Croatia have signed a protocol on cooperation in the protection of competition. The protocol was signed in Montenegro based on the initiative of the Montenegrin Competition Authority. Given that the market structure in numerous commercial sectors is becoming more regional in scope, the authorities recognised the need to increase cooperation and assist in respective proceedings.
The Agency for the Protection of Competition has adopted a notice addressing the protection of confidential data in competition law proceedings. The agency identified three categories which can be classed as confidential information, including trade secrets, data unavailable to the general public and other data whose publication could cause irreparable damage.
During 2014 the Agency for the Protection of Competition has concentrated its activities on investigations into restrictive agreements and has imposed measures on the four publishers of Montenegro's largest daily newspapers for participating in a price-fixing cartel. It is yet to be seen whether and to what extent the cartel's participants will be fined, but the fine may be up to 10% of the participants' annual turnover.
The government has adopted four implementing regulations in accordance with the Protection of Competition Act. The regulations will allow economic operators doing business in Montenegro to assess independently the fulfilment of the requirements for group exemption of specific horizontal and vertical agreements. Parties to an agreement can apply for an individual exemption.
The Competition Authority recently opened three investigations ex officio. One proceeding concerns the daily newspaper market, while the other two concern the telecommunications market. Since the new Competition Act was adopted in 2012, the authority has increased its activities significantly – particularly investigations.
The Competition Authority recently adopted four bylaws, including the Guidelines on Access to Information and the Code of Ethics. The guidelines lay down instructions for market participants on how to access and review information possessed by the authority, while the code sets out major ethical principles under which authority employees must fulfil their professional duties.
In March and April 2013 the Competition Authority published a set of new bylaws. The bylaws include guidelines on the content and manner of submitting individual exemption applications. Introduction of the Tariff Code will see the authority charge fees for the first time since its establishment in 2006.
The new Competition Act recently came into force. Among other things, it stipulates that the enforcement of competition rules will be within the competencies of the Agency for Protection of Competition. The change represents a harmonisation with Montenegrin administrative law rules. To complement the act, new bylaws are set to be adopted in the first half of 2013.
A new law on the protection of competition recently came into force. The Competition Act regulates both market behaviour (restrictive agreements and abuse of dominance) and merger control. With respect to merger control, the most significant changes concern notification thresholds and deadlines, as well as deadlines within which the competition authority must review mergers and issue appropriate decisions.