As was mentioned recently, this summer has seen an increase in the Serbian Competition Commission’s (Commission) willingness to perform dawn raids of company premises. After a number of small scale dawn raids that are still to result in official commencements of follow-up proceedings, the Commission announced that it will press cartel charges against major international tobacco companies.
On 30 November 2015 the Commission raided local subsidiaries of Philip Morris and British American Tobacco, and, just a few days later, launched an official investigation against Philip Morris, British American Tobacco, JT International, Imperial Tobacco, TDR and Monus. According to the Commission, these companies, which take a significant share of the Serbian market, are accused of coordinating their respective price formation policies thus breaching Article 10 of the Serbian Competition Act. The prescribed fines for such violations are up to 10% of the respective undertaking’s annual turnover in Serbia, but it should be noted that the Commission has so far been reluctant to impose the statutory maximum.
Given that much of the recent reform in the Commission’s competition law enforcement has been motivated by the progress in Serbia’s EU accession process, market players should become increasingly weary of coming under the radar of the Serbian watchdog and start considering introduction of appropriate internal procedures so as to minimise consequences of unannounced inspections of business premises.