The Czech Office for Protection of Competition (Úřad pro ochranu hospodářské soutěže, "CCA") is re-launching dawn raids on business premises conducted without a court warrant, CCA vice chairman Michal Petr told on a conference in Brussels on 19 February 2015.
The legality of dawn raids (i.e. unannounced inspections of business premises as part of the CCA’s investigations of alleged breaches of competition law), which the authority has carried out in the past without having a court warrant, has been questioned by a judgment handed down by the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg (see “European Court of Human Rights rules that Czech Competition Authority is not authorised to enter business premises without a warrant” ("Judgment").
In the Czech Republic, a precedent court warrant has only been required for dawn raids on private premises; before the ECHR Judgment was issued, such precedent court approval had never been required for dawn raids on business premises. Therefore, the CCA put all planned dawn raids on hold to evaluate the impact of the judgment in the Czech Republic.
CCA has now resumed dawn raids
Our confidential sources have confirmed that, as of 19 February 2015, the CCA has actually resumed such searches in business premises.
According to the authority’s vice chairman, the CCA in co-operation with judges has recently concluded that there is no systemic problem in the legal system in the Czech Republic in this regard. They are of the opinion that the absence of a precedent court warrant is justified by a follow-up court review of the legality of dawn raids based on an action set by Section 65 of the Czech Republic’s Code of Administrative Justice.
Please note that, as of 19 February 2015, any company in the Czech Republic may be subject to dawn raids. Under the current situation, we strongly advise companies to prepare for such unannounced investigations by the CCA. Companies should have a dawn raid policy in place and their employees should be informed about the issue, both to ensure that the company fulfils its legal obligations and to make certain that the company's rights are duly respected in the event of a dawn raid.
Despite the CCA’s newly-chosen approach, we also advise raided companies to ask the CCA to produce a court warrant for the dawn raid, with reference to the ECHR Judgment. In case the CCA enters its business premises without a warrant, the company should record its objection and the failure of the CCA's procedure to comply with the Judgment in the Protocol on the dawn raid. Such an approach might enable the company to contest all evidence obtained during the dawn raid.