What were the main competition law developments in Montenegro in 2019 and what to expect in 2020?
Antitrust: Two Dawn Raids, Two RPM Cases
In the area of antitrust, the highlights of 2019 were two dawn raids performed by the Montenegrin national competition authority (NCA) – the Agency for Protection of Competition. Interestingly, both cases concern alleged resale price maintenance (RPM) violations, a hardcore restriction in Montenegrin competition law.
The NCA performed the first unannounced inspection with respect to a restrictive agreement in the market for the sale of electronic devices in Montenegro. The prime target of the dawn raid and the ensuing investigation was the company PIN Montenegro. This case is still pending.
The other dawn raid was in the market for the sale of motor vehicles. In this case, the NCA is investigating two local companies allegedly involved in RPM concerning the sale of Peugeot motorcycles. The investigation resulted from a sector inquiry – the NCA was analyzing the market for post-sale services for motor vehicles and came across a problematic agreement for the sale of Peugeot motorcycles. This case is pending, too.
Merger Control: An Explosion of Merger Filings
While it dealt with only two antitrust cases in 2019, during the same period the Montenegrin NCA rendered as many as 62 merger decisions. This is a sharp increase compared to the year before – in 2018 the Montenegrin NCA cleared 44 transactions.
All 2019 merger decisions were unconditional Phase I clearances and many concerned extraterritorial transactions, with little or no connection with Montenegro. This is the result of extremely low merger filing thresholds in Montenegro, which often catch concentrations which have nothing to do with the Montenegrin market.
For more information about the merger filing thresholds in Montenegro, please see here.
To access our online app for checking the merger filing thresholds in Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and North Macedonia, please click here.
State Aid: NCA Now Covers This, Too
Back in 2018, in addition to antitrust and merger control, the Montenegrin NCA also gained State aid powers. This means that all three pillars of Montenegrin competition law now have the same enforcer – the Agency for Protection of Competition.
In 2019, the Montenegrin NCA started a State aid probe into government assist to Montenegro Airlines, the country’s flag carrier airline. The investigation of the Montenegrin NCA seems to be focusing on the funds which the airline received during 2018 and 2019. If interested, you can read more about this case here.
Against this background, what to expect in Montenegrin competition law in 2020?
To start with – a lot of new merger filings. Since the merger filing thresholds in Montenegro remain the same, one could imagine that the number of merger filings will not decrease. What is more, it is possible it would increase even further, depending on the level of M&A activity.
Also, since its focus seems to be on vertical agreements (in particular RPM), we can expect more antitrust investigations in this sphere.
Finally, it will be interesting to see how the NCA resolve the State aid case involving Montenegro Airlines and whether it will launch new ones of similar weight.