The Serbian Parliament has recently adopted amendments to the Criminal Code. The amendments include a significant overhaul of the legal framework for white collar crimes, touching upon the rules relevant for antitrust enforcement as well.
While the Serbian Criminal Code previously penalized antitrust infringements spearheaded by the responsible managers, the relevant provision was relatively vague and targeted chiefly dominance abuse. Although a few investigations were initiated under these rules, no final criminal judgement was ever issued by the courts in relation to antitrust breaches.
However, the new rules only target the conclusion of restrictive agreements related to price-fixing, limitation of production or sales or market-sharing. Naturally, agreements exempted from prohibition under the competition framework are also exempted from criminal sanctions. Criminal penalties for concluding a prohibited restrictive agreement include prison from six months to up to five years, as well as a monetary fine. As is common in an antitrust regime, leniency applicants are also afforded leniency under the criminal rules (which was not explicitly regulated previously). The relevant amendments are expected to enter into force on 1 March 2018.
In conclusion, the new provisions are more precise, decriminalize a range of behaviour (concerning dominance abuse) and are more in line with overall competition regulations. Accordingly and taking into account the ongoing proceedings before the Competition Commission, the first criminal cases for antitrust breaches may well be expected in Serbia in the near future.