The Serbian NCA  has announced it has started an antitrust investigation against a Polish company Polanik Sp. z o.o. and its Serbian distributor (GR Sport). Polanik is active in the production and wholesale of sports equipment.

The probe was started upon complaint by a Serbian company BMA Trading, which is also active in the production of sports equipment. The complaint was specifically related to the purchase of athletics equipment for the European Athletics Indoor Championships held in Belgrade in 2017.

According to the NCA, GR Sport has acted as Polanik’s exclusive distributor for Serbia for more than a decade. And, the NCA reckons, in case the relevant market share of the parties on the Serbian market exceeds 25%, their exclusive agreement should have been filed to the NCA for individual exemption from prohibition.

Unlike in the EU, in Serbia there is still no self-assessment with respect to individual exemption of restrictive agreements. In Serbia, in order to benefit from an individual exemption, a restrictive agreement needs to be notified to the NCA in advance. In other words, the Serbian system is comparable to the one which existed in the EU under Regulation 17/62.

Also, Serbian block exemption rules differ from those applicable in the EU. Most notably, in Serbia, the market share threshold for block exemption is set at 25%.

In its practice, the Serbian NCA has so far been predominantly focusing on restrictions by object. It will therefore be interesting to see how it will deal with exclusive distributorship, which, in the absence of hardcore restraints, would qualify as an infringement by effect.

The case is also significant since this is the first time the Serbian Commission has started an antitrust probe against a company based outside Serbia, which could be an indication more such cases will follow.

Under Serbian competition law, the Serbian NCA can fine an antitrust infringer up to 10% of the undertaking’s Serbian turnover in the year preceding the year when the antitrust investigation was started.