The Bosnia and Herzegovina Competition Council will apply new tariffs as from November 2018. Among these, the most significant are the increased merger control clearance fees, which have doubled. The council took inspiration for the new tariffs from those of other regional competition authorities, including the Serbian and Montenegrin commissions.
The Competition Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina recently set out its objectives and priorities for 2018 in its 2018 Work Programme. One of the council's medium-term objectives is to make market regulation more efficient with the aim of strengthening competition protection. The council has also stressed its dedication to improving its expertise and administrative capacity.
The process for appointing new Competition Council members is now complete and operational. Specific and complex rules exist for the composition of the council and for it to pass decisions. Among other things, there must be two members representing each of the three constituent ethnic groups of Bosnia and Herzegovina (ie, two Serbs, two Bosnians and two Croatians).
The Competition Council's main activities in 2016 included issuing opinions and conducting proceedings pursuant to requests filed by undertakings or ex officio. A total of 50% of the cases filed were processed in 2016, while the remaining cases have been carried over to 2017. The council's total income from administrative fees in 2016 was KM234,574 (approximately €115,000), while collected fines reached KM624,492 (approximately €610,000).
The Competition Council aims to improve its quality system in order to comply with EU legislation and enhance competition law enforcement in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The council's recently published work programme outlines its objectives and priorities for 2017 and ensures its transparency for business and expert communities. The council has stressed that certain issues may arise in the implementation of the work programme, which may affect relevant tasks and activities.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition recently determined that two breweries were engaged in resale price maintenance. The breweries had entered into agreements that contained price-fixing provisions and distributors were allegedly restricted from independently determining resale prices.
During 2015 the Competition Authority issued 68 decisions concerning merger control, the abuse of dominant positions and state aid and 32 opinions concerning competition law and state aid law. Further, the authority issued a number of significant fines in decisions relating to cartels and the abuse of dominant positions. Taking into account the available human and financial resources, the authority is satisfied with the results achieved in 2015.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition recently published its 2014 annual report, in which it outlines the developments of the previous year. The commission issued 41 decisions in administrative proceedings, four opinions under the Competition Act and 19 opinions under the State Aid Control Act. It also decided 10 cases in misdemeanour proceedings and imposed fines totalling Md233,530,047.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition has recently experienced a slight drop in activities. Between May and August 2014 the commission rendered five merger clearances and imposed two fines in misdemeanour proceedings. Moreover, recently enacted amendments to the Competition Act further prescribe the procedures for the appointment of the commission's professional staff.
The Commission for Protection of Competition issued the Rules of Procedure, aimed at regulating the commission's decision-making sessions. The rules set out that meetings are to be convened as needed by the president of the commission or on written request by at least three commission members. Voting is always public and the commission adopts its decisions by a majority vote of all members.
The government recently lifted the state of emergency which had been declared due to the COVID-19 pandemic, allowing normal operations to gradually resume. As a result, all deadlines for the Commission for the Protection of Competition and parties to proceedings that ended between 24 March 2020 and 6 May 2020 are now deemed to end on 5 June 2020. This includes the submission of merger notifications, responses to requests for information, decisions and clearances.
The Commission for the Protection of Competition has published its first leniency decision in a cartel case, following a report by one of the cartel participants. The leniency programme was introduced in 2009 but had yet to yield results. The leniency decision is therefore a watershed moment in the programme's development and signals an improvement in the commission's anti-cartel enforcement record.
From 1 January 2020, Serbia will have a new state aid regime under the new Act on State Aid Control. One of the goals of the new act is to harmonise Serbia's state aid legal framework with EU law, which will help to advance the EU accession process and the implementation of Negotiation Chapter 8 – Competition Policy. Until now, market participants have not focused on compliance with the state aid rules, likely due to a lack of awareness and relatively lenient enforcement; this is expected to change under the new act.
The Serbian Competition Authority has initiated ex officio antitrust proceedings against Serbia Broadband – Srpske kablovske mreže doo Belgrade on grounds of suspected abuse of dominance. This is the first case in which the authority has initiated abuse of dominance proceedings based on soft behavioural remedy (ie, the obligation to report prices).
The Serbian Competition Authority and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development have launched an initiative to establish a regional competition forum. The forum will include all Western Balkan states (Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania) and two EU member states (Slovenia and Croatia). The Centre for Liberal-Democratic Studies has been enlisted as a consultant to help design, implement and manage the forum's operations.