In a nutshell, what was worth noting in Serbian competition law in 2019?
Following a Phase II investigation initiated in October 2017, the Serbian Competition Commission has cleared the acquisition of a Serbian yeast producer (owned by the American Alltech) by the French giant Lesaffre. The clearance was conditional and includes certain reporting obligations by the merged entity.
Apart from antitrust and merger control issues, the Montenegrin Competition Agency will soon also be in charge of State aid control. The draft law to that effect has already reached parliament and is expected to be adopted at the next parliamentary session.
Now that it’s behind us, it’s safe to say the previous year was one of the most eventful ones since modern Serbian competition law came to being. This not only due to a fairly active Competition Commission, but also due to other developments, such as those surrounding the drafting of a new Competition Act.
As has been the case in previous years, the Serbian Competition Commission used the end of the year to close some of the cases it had been working on. This time, the Commission did so with two investigations: one concerning bid rigging in the field of overhaul of rail vehicles and the other about vertical price fixing. In both investigations the Commission had used dawn raid to gather evidence.
Similar to the question who can challenge the Competition Commission’s individual exemption decisions, it is not entirely clear who can attack the Serbian watchdog’s merger decisions. And while the scope of such parties may currently be narrow, this could change with the adoption of a new Competition Act.
Apart from whether to retain the current notification system of individual exemption or switch to self-assessment, another possible dilemma of the drafters of the new Serbian Competition Act is who should have standing to challenge an individual exemption decision of the Competition Commission. Currently, in practice the standing belongs only to the parties which requested the exemption. But isn’t this unfair?
Serbia is soon to get a new Competition Act, and while it’s uncertain which parts of the current law will be reformed, it’s unlikely the current low filing thresholds will survive. Here is a proposal on how the new filing thresholds could be set.
The Serbian Competition Commission seems to want to get as many cases off the table as possible before the year’s end – it just published a decision whereby it established abuse of dominance and fined the infringing undertaking for excessive pricing. In doing so, the Commission expressly relied on EU case-law.
By a decision dated 10 October 2017, the Serbian Competition Commission has launched its first Phase II merger probe of 2017. The examined transaction pertains to the planned acquisition of a Serbian yeast producer (owned by the American Alltech) by the French giant Lesaffre. The in-depth investigation comes due to a market overlap in Serbia.