Karanović & Partners holds the Annual Competition and Business Regulation Conference

Karanović & Partners, together with the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, held the annual Competition and Business Regulation Conference at the Hilton Belgrade hotel on 4 December 2019. This is the 14th year in a row that such a conference is organized. This year, more than 100 experts from the world of business and the legal community, as well as key regulators and stakeholders, attended the conference in order to discuss the contemporary issues within the fields of competition law, business regulation, and data protection.

The newest, 13th,  edition of Karanović & Partners’ annual publication – Focus on Competition – was launched. The publication features the latest updates and developments from the local, regional, European and global practice of the competition law.

Two panel discussions were held, dedicated to European perspectives of the Competition Law and Compliance with Serbian Law and GDPR.

Managing Partner, Rastko Petaković, delivered the keynote speech.

 „I am proud to open the 14th Conference in a row that tackles competition issues businesses in Serbia and the region is facing, and we have since included another topic of interest for businesses, which is data protection. In the coming period, we plan on working on other questions of interest, apart from competition and data protection. We plan to include other questions of interest for the regulation in businesses in the upcoming period“, said Mr. Petakovic.

Mr. Petakovic pointed out that the European Commission made some courageous decisions, which led to record-breaking fines. From his point of view, the European Commission has taken the sides of both consumers and the Competition Law and has demonstrated professionalism in its tenure.

Mr. Petakovic further added that such standards are needed in the countries of Western Balkans.

Following Mr. Petaković, The Danish Ambassador to Serbia, His Excellency Mr. Anders Christian Hougaard addressed the crowd and said he was honoured to speak at the Competition and Business Regulation Conference.

“It is always a pleasure for a public employee, like me, to be among people who view business in different aspects”, said Mr. Hougaarg, noting that Denmark is one of the best countries to do business in. 

Competition Law and Digital Economy – European Perspectives

The first panel discussion, moderated by Partner* Mr. Bojan Vučković, was dedicated to the link between competition laws and digital economy from a European perspective. The panelists included Mr. Gregor Langus, the Senior Vice President of Compass Lexecon in Brussels, Mr. Gabor Fejes, a Partner at the Oppenheim law firm in Budapest, Ms. Nana Blagojević, Senior Legal Counsel at Bausch Health/Pharmaswiss and Senior Associate* Mr. Veljko Smiljanić.

Mr. Gregor Langus pointed out that enforcers have at their disposal a very powerful set of tools and that the competition laws are designed in a way that enables them to “catch” everything, whether it be contracts, mergers, or other processes.

“Nowadays we have very sophisticated tools that allow you to react quickly…The competition law is extremely flexible”, said Mr. Langus.

Mr. Langus highlighted that there is nothing wrong with the current framework of competition laws,

“There is a reason the law does not experiment, but it is always catching up. Firms need some legal certainty…Too much is asked from the enforcers. I think we are fine and let’s not fix what is not broken”, said Mr. Gregor Langus.

Mr. Gabor Fejes agreed with Mr. Langus’ viewpoint, saying that he has noticed that the competition law is being used to fix issues that do not need to be fixed.

Mr. Veljko Smiljanić concurred that the competition law is so flexible that it can easily keep up with the technological advances in practice.

“At this time, I do not believe that there is a need for specific rules and regulations when it comes to the digital economy, either here in the region, nor in Europe in general. However, competition enforcement may have to set additional chairs for engineers next to the usual set of lawyers and economists”, says Mr. Smiljanić.

Data Protection – Compliance with Serbian law and the GDPR

The second panel discussion, titled „Data Protection – Compliance with the Serbian law and the GDPR“ was dedicated to the Serbian Law on Personal Data Protection, which became applicable in August 2019. The panelists, Ms. Nevena Ružić, Аssistant General Secretary and the Head of the Sector for Harmonization of the Office of the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance and Personal Data Protection, Mr. Nino Tlapak Attorney with Dorda Rechtsanwalte in Vienna, Ms. Aleksandra Simić, Compliance Officer at Novartis, Senior Associate* Ms. Sanja Spasenović and was moderated by Partner* Mr. Goran Radošević.

The panelists talked in-depth about how the new Serbian law fares with respect to the GDPR and came to the conclusion that, while it may copy it in many ways, there are significant differences that proved troublesome for some Serbian companies.

Ms. Sanja Spasenović noted that the solutions to the key challenges with regard to data protection and privacy are education and constant training.

People are not yet fully aware of what is happening and IT vendors must familiarise themselves with local laws and GDPR, says Ms. Aleksandra Simić, adding that she would like to see a “one-click solution” implemented, through which users can opt-out of sharing their personal information and blocking its potential future usage.

Ms. Nevena Ružić believes that privacy disclaimers, especially the ones depicting the use of personal information should be made simple in a way that everyone understands.

“One of the biggest challenges, both for the civilisation itself and Serbia is for privacy not to be the privilege of educated and rich people”, said Ms. Ružić.

*independent Attorney at Law in cooperation with Karanović & Partners