In January 2014, ministries and stakeholders concluded discussions on amendments to the Competition Law of the Republic of Latvia. The amendments will now be laid down in concrete terms before their submission to the Cabinet of Ministers. Those amendments should render the Latvian Competition Law more efficient and optimize and improve the operation of the Competition Council of Latvia (CC). They aim to remedy identified shortcoming of the current law and to take into account the EU Court’s case law, the experience of other Member States and OECD recommendations on Merger Review.
One of the most important changes planned in the current version of the amendments aims to increase the efficiency of the CC’s activities. The CC will have the right to prioritize cases and concentrate its resources on investigating infringements which may significantly affect competition or consumers. It is also planned to enhance the CC’s ability to ensure that companies pay the fines imposed and comply with the legal obligations set by the CC. If there is a sound reason to expect that the payment may be jeopardized, the CC will be able to seize movable property and cash, to record a claim in the Land Register or to use other options provided by Civil Procedural Law to ensure the compliance with its decision.
The amendments will also make the Latvian Leniency programme more comprehensive. In the future, the CC will be able to use the so-called ‘leniency plus’ by reducing the fine for a cartel participant if he applies for leniency and submits evidence on another yet undisclosed cartel. It will also become easier to carry out action for damages as the amendments provides for a presumption according to which prices are increased by 10%, unless proven otherwise, as a result of cartels, vertical agreements such as resale price maintenance or territorial restrictions.
Further, the amendments clarify and set out new criteria for merger notifications. In the new system, a merger will have to be notified if the combined turnover of the merging entities for the previous financial year on the territory of Latvia exceeds € 30 000 000. This will replace the current notification requirement based on market shares.
The amendments also foresee imposing a state fee for revision of merger notifications and to extending with 15 working days the period to assess remedies submitted by enterprises in merger cases.
If the amendments are approved by the Cabinet of Ministers, the draft law will be submitted to the Parliament for approval.