The Serbian NCA has been actively conducting dawn raids for a few years already. Now, it has published a guidance aimed at informing undertakings of their rights and obligations during such unannounced inspections.
Comparable to the powers of the European Commission, the Serbian NCA (Commission for Protection of Competition of the Republic of Serbia) has the authority to conducted unannounced inspections (dawn raids) in order to gather evidence related to suspected competition law infringements. And the NCA is not afraid of using this authority in practice.
For instance, just a few weeks ago, the NCA raided two companies active in the sale of baby equipment in Serbia. The dawn raids were conducted on suspicion that the companies were involved in vertical price fixing (RPM), something the Serbian NCA has been particularly keen on pursuing. During the inspections, the Serbian Commission gathered documents in three locations and will use the evidence in the pending investigation.
Against this background, the NCA’s guidance on dawn raids is a welcome development indeed, as it allows undertakings to prepare in advance for what might await them in an announced inspection. Specifically, the published guidance instructs parties concerning:
- the powers of NCA staff during dawn raids;
- the obligations which undertakings undergoing a dawn raid have under Serbian Competition Law;
- the rights undertakings have during an unannounced inspection;
- the rules governing the presence of lawyers at the site of the dawn raid; and
- sanctions individuals and companies may face in case they obstruct a dawn raid (including criminal prosecution).
Is the publication of this guidance a sign of more dawn raids to come? It remains to be seen. In any event, the publication of this document shows the Serbian NCA takes procedural issues of antitrust investigations seriously, something which at one point was its weak spot – judging from how the courts viewed it, at least.