The main priorities of the Competition Council (the CC) in 2020 will be related to investigation of cases of most severe infringements, incl. investigation of already commenced significant cases, as well as surveillance of public administrative bodies – state, local governments and their capital companies – on the market.
A constant priority of the CC is to detect and eliminate the most severe infringements of the competition law in a timely manner. In this year, the authority will continue investigation of the previously commenced broad-scale cases – alleged bid-rigging of construction companies, the case of Riga city waste management or the so-called case of AS “Tīrīga”, as well as alleged abuse of dominant position on the market of railway freight transport.
In cases of indications of minor infringements, the CC will continue the already successfully established practice and will use preventive measures – warnings. Such methods of “Consult first” principle are used only in cases, when market participants have come to attention of the CC for the first time and the competition restriction has not caused significant consequences in the market.
Another significant topicality in 2020 is the new regulation of the Competition Law, which came into force on 1 January of this year and prohibits public administrative bodies – the state, local governments and their capital companies – from violating the principles of equal competition, groundlessly restricting the possibility for private entrepreneurs to operate on the market. The Law stipulates that, if public administrative bodies or their capital companies hinder competition, the CC will conduct negotiations. If such negotiations are unsuccessful, the Council will be entitled to impose an obligation to eliminate the competition obstacles. In case of failure by the local government to fulfil this obligation, the CC will be entitled to impose a fine up to three per cent of net turnover of the capital company in the last financial year.
In addition, state and local government capital companies have to submit to the CC an assessment of validity of their commercial activity once every five years, and majority of them have carried out the last assessment in late 2015. Therefore, in this year the CC faces intense work of provision of consultations and opinions regarding application of Section 88 of the State Administration Structure Law.
The CC will also continue to improve regulatory enactments and various markets in 2020. In order to eliminate competition restrictions in the sectoral legal framework, the CC will pay increased attention to various sectors, including waste management and pharmacy.
It is significant that in 2020 Latvian national laws, incl. the Competition Law, shall integrate the so-called ECN+ Directive 2019/01, which determines that all competition authorities of the European Union shall be provided with instruments required for efficient application of the competition law. The CC commenced the work already in 2019, preparing the necessary amendments in order to strengthen the powers of the authority.
The year 2020 is the first year of implementation of the 3-year operational strategy (2020 - 2023) of the CC, and the authority has defined two main priorities for this 3-year strategic cycle: 1) to increase efficiency of the competition surveillance and investigation of infringements in significant sectors, and 2) to raise awareness of public benefits created by fair competition.
The authority formulates the priority sectors and most significant problems of the competition environment, solution for elimination of which has to be found, based on the trends and challenges detected in the sectoral and entrepreneurship environment, as well as fulfilment of previous work plans and resources of the authority.