1 May 2014 marks ten years since Latvia joined the European Union (EU). In the view of the Competition Council (CC), the cooperation within the European Competition Network (ECN), the mutual exchanges of experience among ECN members and expanded opportunities to detect infringements have been the most important benefits for the enforcement of competition policy.
Over the past ten years of membership in the EU, the CC has initiated 19 investigations of infringements of Articles 101 and 102 TFEU. The most noteworthy are: (1) the case against the collective copyright management association AKKA/LAA for excessive pricing; (2) the case on abuse of a dominant position by Riga International Airport, which charged Ryanair and airBaltic substantially lower prices for airport services than those charged to their competitors, and (3) the concerted practices of SIA Samsung Electronics Baltics through resale price maintenance, allocation of markets and restricting trade for Samsung goods.
The majority of cartel cases are investigated by the CC under the national rules, since the cases concern public procurement of limited scope, and infringements which may affect cross-border trade are not so frequently established. Leniency programmes in the EU are an important instrument in the successful fight against cartels. However, in Latvia, the leniency programme is used rather reluctantly. As a result, more efforts need to be devoted to ex officio investigations. Also, according to the existing legislation, the CC has very limited possibilities to prioritise cases, but amendments to the Competition Law to provide broader scope for prioritisation are under discussion. This would mean that cases of relatively low importance should in future no longer impede the investigation of serious infringements that bear a much higher risk of affecting consumer welfare.
After Latvia joined the EU, the investigation powers of the CC were strengthened. Ten years ago, the CC did not yet have what is nowadays a self-evident right to carry out unannounced compulsory inspections on the basis of a court order. Without the right to carry out inspections, carefully concealed infringements such as cartels are difficult to discover which means that, before joining the EU the work of the CC had been limited to other types of infringements.
Cooperation among enforcers of EU competition rules is one of the main cornerstones for the effective and uniform application of EU competition rules, and cooperation within the ECN has been of utmost significance for the CC. Over the past ten years, the CC has collaborated in inspections with both the European Commission and other EU national competition authorities, and has also requested the assistance of other EU national competition authorities in inspections. Cooperation within the ECN working groups also has to be highlighted, as it allows the CC to gain not only valuable experience from other ECN members, but also wider comprehension of the latest competition law developments in the EU.
The application of the competition rules by the CC is a success. The aim for the coming years is to continue implementing EU competition policy and ensure its efficient and effective enforcement.