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In issue 8.3 of the CEE Legal Matters magazine, we spoke with Amberlo Co-Founder and CEO Aidas Kavaliauskas to learn more about the company’s cloud-based case management software built for legal professionals. With this issue’s focus on the Baltics and with the company being, at its roots, a Baltic one, we spoke with several law firms in the region that were early adopters of the solution, to learn about their experience using the platform and what advice they have in terms of selecting such a tool for a law firm.

Distribution agreements, also termed vertical agreements, are currently subject to a block exemption regime (the VBER) from the general antitrust prohibition. The VBER is due to expire on May 31, 2022. In this context, the European Commission has engaged in extensive public consultations and has already published a proposed new regime, the revised VBER and Vertical Guidelines, scheduled to enter into force on June 1, 2022. These are, in our view, the four key topics that suppliers should be aware of when preparing for the revised regime:

In recent years, the growing concern that employers’ market power in labor markets has led to reduced or suppressed wages and working conditions has heated up the discussions on the competition authorities’ potential interference over competition violations within labor markets. These discussions have not remained theoretical and the competition authorities have started to launch investigations into labor markets. The Turkish Competition Authority (TCA) has kept pace with this global trend. On April 20, 2021, the TCA announced on its official website that it has ex officio launched a full-fledged investigation against 32 companies, mainly active in digital markets, to determine whether they violated the Law on the Protection of Competition through gentlemen’s agreements in labor markets in Turkey.

Over the past year, the Antimonopoly Committee of Ukraine has been closely scrutinizing business structures involving corporate investment funds during the review of merger control notifications. In particular, the regulator is interested in relations of control among asset management companies, corporate investment funds, and their shareholders. Depending on the regulator’s position, the list of parties to a concentration can be significantly wider than one may probably realize.

At the end of 2020, the Chairman of the Czech Competition Authority (CCA) was replaced. Petr Rafaj, who had been in the position for more than 11 years and who had been linked to several controversial cases, resigned. The government, through a tender procedure, selected his successor: Petr Mlsna. The aim of the 42-year-old lawyer, who has extensive experience working in senior government positions, is to return the good reputation of the CCA. Mlsna emphasizes strengthening the importance of competition law as part of the CCA’s competencies.

Assessing the damages resulting from competition law infringement is one of the main focal points of private antitrust litigation. However, in almost all cases, the assessment of damages and causation requires an expert with specialized expertise. Below, we review the methods available in the Hungarian legal system for providing expert evidence. In particular, we will show that the law only provides limited options in cases requiring special expertise. Moreover, this limitation may be even more pronounced due to the seemingly obscure nature of case law interpretations related to private expert evidence – interpretations that are currently being formulated.

On July 21, 2021, the Croatian High Administrative Court confirmed the Croatian Competition Agency’s (CCA) cartel decision adopted against 14 Croatian driving schools. In its infringement decision dated December 30, 2019, the CCA established the existence of a price-fixing cartel between 14 Croatian driving schools and imposed fines in the total amount of HRK 415,000 (approximately EUR 55,500). During this cartel investigation the CCA conducted several dawn raids and established the existence of a price-fixing cartel based on, inter alia, WhatsApp correspondence exchanged between representatives and employees of cartel members. Based on CCA’s infringement decision, the content of exchanged WhatsApp correspondence between cartel members referred to the coordinated price increases for driving lessons starting from the beginning of 2018.

In 2020 and 2021 there were no developments towards the adoption of the new law and bylaws regarding competition/antirust (a process that started in 2017), probably due to the coronavirus pandemic. Certain changes in respect to the enforcement of competition rules were introduced during 2020, due to COVID-19, such as a new manner of communicating with the Serbian Competition Commission, a prolongation of the deadlines during the state of emergency in Serbia, etc. However, all subject changes have been put out of force and are being restored to the state prior to COVID-19.

As one of the next wave candidates for membership in the European Union, Albania went a long distance in the harmonization of its legal framework with the acquis communautaire in recent years. The most recent country progress report of the European Commission, issued as part of the 2020 Enlargement Package for the Western Balkans, recognized the legislative efforts of the country to align its legal framework to EU requirements and to enhance the country’s ability to assume the obligations of membership.Albania first ventured into the legal regulation of antitrust in 1995 by introducing a law On Competition, which dealt with antitrust, as well as with unfair competition and consumer protection matters. As a first attempt, it raised a lot of questions, but it also opened the topic of competition law in the country and served as a starting point in developing the relevant legal framework.

Distribution agreements are a necessary legal basis for any distribution chain across industries, and are very important both for the cooperation of companies within individual countries, and for the cooperation of distribution chain companies coming from different countries. In an attempt to retain or conquer the market, certain companies (manufacturers or main distributors) may try to restrict local distributors or wholesalers to selling only their products or to selling at certain prices, by imposing specific distribution conditions on them in (exclusive) distribution agreements. Most of those companies are not aware that such imposed distribution conditions are prohibited by law and that very high penalties are prescribed for such actions in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

In my career, I have lived through four crises. In 1991, when I started a legal business, there was a total economic collapse, with a shortage of the most basic essential goods – no furniture or computers, or even proper light bulbs for the office. Then there was the ‘Russian’ crisis of 2000, a crisis of foreign currency and the ruble. The one of 2008-2010 followed. And now we have the COVID-19 pandemic – perhaps not so much an economic crisis as one arising from a climate of uncertainty.

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