Zuzana Sabova, Oct 30, 2012
Competition law was introduced in Slovakia in the early 1990s as a part of the market mechanisms aimed at the transformation from a centrally planned to a market economy. In 2011, the Antimonopoly Office of Slovakia (“Office”) celebrated its 20th anniversary. The role of the institution in the economic life of the country is indisputable. Looking at both its past and present activities, the effectiveness of competition law enforcement in Slovakia can be evaluated.
From the beginning of its existence Slovakian competition law followed the EU model, mainly due to the country’s endeavor to join the European Union. This is visible from the wording of legislation and also from the decision-making practices of the Office.
The main effort was accomplished in 2001 when the new Competition Act was adopted. The Act contained substantial changes as to the formulation of anticompetitive practices and procedural rules. Regarding the institutional framework, this Act enabled the creation of an independent authority by setting the conditions for nominating the head of the authority, fixing 5-year terms of office, and determining precise reasons when the head of the authority can be dismissed. This step significantly contributed to the independence and stability of the institution and enabled it to formulate and implement competition policy with a long-term horizon.
Further amendments to the Act were introduced in 2004 when the country joined the European Union. To ensure the fulfillment of the EU requirements, mainly set by Regulation 1/2003, it was necessary to enable an effective application of the EU law in Slovakia.
The latest changes in the law reflect needs resulting from the practices of the Office; in particular, those concerning the control of concentrations, which were dealt with by introducing the SIEC test, and making procedures less burdensome and more flexible.
Clear tendencies towards the EU rules can be seen also in the decision-making practices of the Office as well as in the soft law. The Office strongly relies on the concepts and doctrines established at the EU level, but also from EU soft law, as can be seen in the Office’s initiatives such as the leniency program and guidelines on setting fines, settlements, and commitment procedures, etc.
Public enforcement via the Office remains the main domain of competition law enforcement. To be exhaustive, a criminal offense connected to the antitrust prohibition stipulated by the Penal Code should be mentioned; however, it has never been used and its relevance can be disputed. Private enforcement of competition law via claims for damages is more a theoretical concept and, although some attempts have been done in this regard, one can hardly consider it to be an effective tool with deterrent effects. Due to these reasons, the following text will focus on public enforcement only.