In December 2020, the Croatian Competition Agency (the “Croatian NCA”) initiated public consultations concerning the amendments to the existing Competition Law, with plans to publish an official report by the end of January 2021. The intention of the amendments is further harmonization with the acquis, i.e. transposition of ECN+ Directive.
The proposed amendments will introduce new legal instruments to the local legal framework, concerning secret cartels, settlement proposals, uniform instrument, daily monetary fines etc. Additionally, in the decisions where it established the existence of restrictive agreement or the abuse of dominance, the Croatian NCA may impose an updated remedy framework, including monitoring undertaking’s business and/or structural measures. The amendments also provide for a procedure for notification of European Competition Network (ECN) in case the Croatian NCA issues provisional measures for breaches of Article 101 or 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (“TFEU”).
In the merger control field, the Croatian NCA will be authorized to review merger notifications per the European Commission’s referral, regardless of the fact whether the merger filing thresholds provided in the Competition Law are met.
The amendments are expected to further enhance the independence of the Croatian NCA with regards to the government and other governmental entities, and should allow the Croatian NCA to independently decide on the priorities in deciding on initiatives to investigate breaches of Article 101 and/or 102 of TFEU. In the enforcement of the Competition Law, as well as Article 101 and 102 of TFEU, the Croatian NCA will now be empowered to hold mandatory consultations with any person holding information regarding the potential breaches of competition rules. The newly introduced settlement proposal will allow parties, that admit to the breach of the Competition Law or Article 101 of TFEU to gain a reduction of the fine by 30%. The amendments also further develop the process for reviewing leniency application, allowing the Croatian NCA to enable access to leniency applications or settlement proposals to the parties to the proceedings where such applications or proposals are made, with the aim of ensuring their right to proper defense.
Additionally, the new amendments slightly amend the legal framework with respect to a statement of objections, further bringing the institute in line with the procedural framework applied by the European Commission.
In the end, the new amendments are tailored to enable broader cooperation of the Croatian NCA with other EU national competition authorities, whereby the uniform instrument is expected to be used as a standard form for the enforcement of decisions of other EU national competition authorities in Croatia and vice versa.