Slovakia has amended its Anti-Competition Law to simplify certain statutory procedures, introduce a more attractive leniency program and provide for greater legal certainty and transparency in proceedings at the Slovak Antimonopoly Office (the “Slovak AMO”).
The changes to Act No. 136/2001 Coll. on the Protection of Competition (the “Act”) and on amendments and supplements to the Act of the Slovak National Council No. 347/1990 Coll. on the Organization of Ministries and other Central Bodies of State Administration of the Slovak Republic as amended (the “Amendment”) came into effect as of 1 July 2014. The Amendment stipulates that the Slovak AMO may reward a cartel participant by not imposing a fine or by reducing it up to 50 percent when that participant proactively provides relevant evidence of a cartel to the Slovak AMO.
This change aims to increase the effectiveness of the application of the Anti-Competition Law in the private sector within EU member states. A new rule is included in the Act, under which a successful applicant for non-imposition of a fine (i.e. for absolute immunity) shall receive immunity against any private claims of potentially damaged parties. This new rule, taken together with the already existing criminal immunity, offers cartel participants protection against administrative, criminal as well as private consequences of a breach of the Anti-Competition Law, if these participants provide the Slovak AMO with relevant cartel evidence on their own initiative.
Within the supervision of concentration under the provisions of the Act, the Amendment introduces several pro-business changes. The thresholds relevant for determining whether there is a concentration will no longer be calculated on the basis of the last closed accounting period, but on the basis of the last accounting period, even if such period was not closed yet.
Further, for those wishing to notify the AMO of such a concentration, the new decree has made the task simpler, introducing a simplified questionnaire that the relevant person may submit. The questionnaire is to be used:
- in the case of the acquisition of exclusive control over the entrepreneur, over which the relevant person already exercises joint control
- where no horizontal or vertical overlay between activities of the concerned parties occurs in Slovakia and
- where the concerned parties’ joint market share in the relevant market is smaller than 15 percent in the case of horizontal concentrations, or when the market share of any party or the joint market share of the parties on the relevant market is less than 30 percent.
In addition, the Amendment also introduces so-called “settlement” as a form of alternative dispute resolution. Settlement shall replace the former valid non-binding guideline and shall apply in cases where the factual status of the relevant case sufficiently justifies the assumptions that the provisions of the Act were violated. Consequently, the Slovak AMO will be entitled to negotiate for the purpose of reaching a settlement, either ex officio or on the basis of the entrepreneur’s proposal. When an entrepreneur admits that it breached the provisions of the Act, this may even result in a reduction of an imposed fine.
The Amendment also changed various other aspects of the competition protection. For instance, it contains new provisions relating to such aspects of dawn raids as a more transparent procedure and stricter protection of information.
Altogether, the Amendment aims to address the practical issues that have arisen during the past years due to the problematic application of certain provisions of the Act and to ameliorate these concerns in ways that are specifically pro-business.