On 7 September 2009, a new competition act came into force in Greece, designed to restructure the Hellenic Competition Authority (HCC) and help it to clear a growing backlog of cases by simplifying notification requirements.
The introduction of the act brings tougher penalties for individuals who infringe the competition rules. Individuals involved in anti-competitive agreements may now be sentenced to a minimum of six months in prison and incur hefty fines. Fines for individuals who breach Article 82 (or the provisions relating to the abuse of a dominant position under Greek law) or who fail to file a qualifying merger under the merger control rules, have also been increased, and may be up to €150,000.
The new act retains the obligation on parties to notify the HCC of restrictive behaviour within the scope of Article 81, or the equivalent Greek legal provisions, and the Authority is still able to formally exempt the agreement or confirm that the agreement is not anti-competitive. The Act also introduces a provision allowing self certification of restrictive agreements, although it is unclear how this will operate in practice.
The act sees the removal of the Greek Directorate General of Competition, which had previously acted in an investigatory capacity. Investigations will now be undertaken by the Hellenic Competition Authority itself. The Authority has also seen changes in its key officials, some of whom have been brought over from Brussels to re-establish the Authority’s integrity following the previous Director General’s conviction for corruption. The Authority will be governed by nine key individuals (instead of eleven), and will be presided over by Dimitrious Kyritsakis, a former vice president of the Greek Supreme Court.