Serbian Commission for Protection of Competition, in carrying out its task of ensuring compliance with the Law on Protection of Competition, has the power to request information from all undertakings and to carry out investigations at their premises. An investigation may even be unannounced. The law granting these powers to the Commission is in force since 2009. However, no competition dawn raid was conducted in Serbia thus far. This is about to change.
The Commission never conducted dawn raids mostly for practical reasons: cooperation with the Police was not secured and Commission’s own officials were not sufficiently trained to use forensic software and equipment. According to the Commission’s 2014 Annual Report, additional trainings were organized last year. Recently, as Živković Samardžić has been informed, the Commission signed a Protocol on Cooperation with the Ministry of Interior, securing the assistance of the Police, and their High Tech Crime Unit in particular. This can only mean one thing – we are about to witness dawn raids in Serbia.
In the course of a dawn raid, the Commission may:
- enter and search business premises, vehicles, land and other premises;
- inspect business and other documents, regardless of the manner in which these documents are stored;
- take, photocopy or scan business documentation;
- seal all business premises and business documents for the time of the investigation;
- take oral or written statements from the representatives or employees, as well as documents on the facts that are the subject of the investigation, and if a written statement is necessary, require such statement to be delivered;
- perform other actions that are in accordance with the objective of the procedure.
Should the Commission find any violation, it may impose fines for undertakings in amount of up to 10% of total annual income, as well as order certain structural (e.g. divestiture) or behavioral measures. Violations could also bring sanctions for individuals. Directors and managers, in certain cases, could even face imprisonment of up to 5 years.
It is important to have a response procedure in place to ensure that the company fulfils its legal obligations and to minimize the impact of the raid on the company’s day-to-day business and reputation. Being prepared is key. Živković Samardžić has experience of providing advice to clients across a range of industry sectors on competition law compliance and what to do if and when things go wrong. Our team of competition experts works with our clients to ensure that they are fully prepared for a dawn raid, by:
- advising on and preparing dawn raid guidelines to ensure that personnel at all levels of the organization understand their respective roles, rights and obligations during a raid,
- conducting competition compliance audits and “mock dawn raids” on clients’ premises,
- providing on-site training on handling a dawn raid, and
- offering compliance training and education.