Strategy - AMO SR, Its Mission and Policy-orientation for the Next Period

 Široká verejnosť si málokedy uvedomuje,
že spotrebiteľ je hlavným adresátom výhod,
ktoré dobre fungujúca hospodárska súťaž
prináša. Rovnako tak i uplatňovanie súťažnej
politiky na vzťahy medzi podnikateľmi sa neodohráva
mimo spotrebiteľa, práve naopak.
Ak hospodárska súťaž funguje správne,
spotrebiteľ profituje z nižšej ceny a z vyššej
kvality výrobkov a služieb. Naopak, ak je
hospodárska súťaž narušená protisúťažným
konaním podnikateľov, spotrebiteľ je ukrátený
– za ponúkaný výrobok alebo službu
zaplatí viac, prípadne dostane kvalitu, ktorú
by za normálnych okolností nebol ochotný
akceptovať.
Protimonopolný úrad Slovenskej republiky
sa od začiatku svojej existencie snažil
čo najlepšie plniť svoje poslanie spočívajúce
v ochrane hospodárskej súťaže a to tak, aby
spotrebiteľ v konečnom dôsledku dostal to
najlepšie, čo mu môže fungujúca hospodárska
súťaž ponúknuť.
Po viac ako dvadsiatich rokoch existencie
trhového hospodárstva na Slovensku, ale
aj úradu samotného a po niekoľkých legislatívnych
a organizačných zmenách vidí úrad
priestor na ďalší krok vpred za naplnením
jeho hlavného poslaniWide public perceives only rarely that the consumer is a main recipient of benefits arising from the well-functioning competition. Even the application of competition policy towards the relations between undertakings does not take place outside the consumer, right vice versa.

If competition works properly the consumer takes advantage of lower prices and higher quality of products and services. Contrariwise, if competition is infringed by anticompetitive conduct of undertakings the consumer is harmed – it would pay more for the offered product or service, possibly it receives a quality it would not accept under the normal circumstances.

Since the beginning of its existence the Antimonopoly Office has been seeking to fulfil its mission grounded in protection of competition with the aim to provide the consumer with the best outcome the functioning competition could offer.

After more than twenty years of existence both of market economy in Slovakia and the Office itself and after several legislative and organizational changes the Office sees the space for next step forward towards fulfillment of its main mission.

Strategy for next period is building a modern competition authority with meaningful policy resulting in clear benefit to consumer.

To achieve this aim the Office prepared set of following changes and measures ensuring the higher efficiency of Office´s activities in the organizational and matter of fact view and also the more vigorous enforcement of competition in Slovakia.

Prioritisation of Office´s activities

The aim of prioritisation of Office´s activities is to focus the capacity of the Office mainly on handling meaningful competition issues. It is not the objective of the Office to spend its resources and taxpayers´ financials on sanctioning of conduct which constitute only ”formal” infringement of the Act without the real impact on consumers. In other words, out of all suspicions of Act infringements, the Office wants to solve right those influencing the large groups of consumers or those in which the very serious anticompetitive conducts occurred. This attitude reflects the pan-European trend of shift from a formal assessment of competition cases to effect-based approach or the so-called more economic approach. From this reason the Office decided to prioritise its activities and to focus mainly on the following areas:

• Revealing and sanctioning of anticompetitive conducts with the impact on large group of consumers

The mission of the Office is to actually ”improve” the consumers´ position by its decision-
making process. Hence, the Office will primarily deal with the anticompetitive conducts
with negative impact on consumers´ benefit.

• Revealing and sanctioning of the most serious anticompetitive conducts (for example
price-fixing cartels)

Vigorous revealing and sanctioning of cartels should be the priority of each competition authority since the cartels represent one of the most serious infringements of competition rules. Hence, the Office decided that the Division of Agreements Restricting Competition will primarily focus on revealing and sanctioning the cartels and the agenda of vertical agreements will be transferred to the Division of Abuse of a Dominant Position.

• Competition advocacy activities

The experience has shown us that in case of many complaints concerning alleged anticompetitive conduct using competition advocacy activities in the relevant sector seems to be more appropriate and efficient instead of fining procedures. These activities include wide range of tools such as explaining the competition issues through workshops, conferences, seminars and thus may lead to increased compliance with competition rules. The purpose is to assist the undertakings in keeping up with the competition rules and thus achieve the remedy in the market in ”non-violent” but effective manner. The Office will also continue in conducting the sector inquiries in which it emphasizes the competition imperfections in problematic sectors.

Legislative changes

Changes in the Act on Protection of Competition and its implementery regulations are crucial
not only for solution of some application issues, but also for the legislative confirmation of changes in recent approach towards assessment of competition cases. In this connection the Office will submit mainly the following legislative drafts in short time:

• Acceleration and simplification of the merger control regime

The Office plans further acceleration and simplification of administrative proceedings to the benefit of participants to the merger. This intent is in harmony with the Office´s effort to be client oriented, to decrease the administrative burden of undertakings and thus contribute to better business environment.

• Support to alternative solution of cases

Concepts of settlement and commitments serve to prompt and effective remedy in the market and the Office encourages the participants to the proceedings to use them. For the higher legal safeguard the rules for their application will be legislatively adjusted in the amendment to the Act in more details.

• Leniency program
Leniency program enabling the undertaking to obtain ”immunity from or reduction of fines” - for participation in the agreement restricting competition when it provides information on this agreement were subject to several changes at the European level. Considering the importance of this the Office wants to reflect the new European trends in draft of amendment to the Act.

• Rights of defence and protection of information in the administrative proceedings

Prepared adjustment of protection and disclosure of information will ensure the balance of rights of defence of participants to the proceedings and protection of business secret and confidential information in such a manner that the rights of defence of the participant to the proceedings would not suffer any harm ultimately.

• Changes in management of the Office
For the more effective management of the Office and unification of decision-making practice among the executive divisions the Deputy Chairman of the Office will be responsible for the first-instance administrative proceedings and will not be a member of the Council of the Office. Chairman of the Office will continue to act within the second instance proceedings and he will be a member of the Council of the Office.

Changes in Office organization
For better work allocation and balanced use of its capacities the Office decided to realize also some changes in its internal organization

• Establishment of the Division of Chief Economist
In accordance with the shift to more economic approach in dealing with competition cases the Office began to build the Division of Chief Economist, which will consist of the top competition economists and which will unify and strengthen the economic approach of the whole Office.

• International relations
Agenda of international cooperation, which has been allocated in several divisions so far, will be concentrated and enhanced in order to create an internationally recognized and positively evaluated competition authority with the clearly profiled policy.

• Use of resources and capacities to deal with the competition cases

The aim of the Office is to use the Office´s resources for dealing with the competition cases as much as possible. In this respect, the Office will seek to optimize its internal procedures and to focus spare staff capacities on dealing with competition issues.

Public Relations
The Office will continue in moving its competition policy towards public through the organizing of workshops, conferences and seminars both on specific and more general issues of competition law. Building the relationships with public will also consist in the everyday agenda of the Office, especially in a flexible and non-bureaucratic approach. We believe that the mentioned changes will contribute to a higher level of competition protection in the Slovak Republic and will constitute a benefit to the consumers. The Office will introduce the details of changes in a short time.
Wide public perceives only rarely that the consumer is a main recipient of benefits arising from the well-functioning competition. Even the application of competition policy towards the relations between undertakings does not take place outside the consumer, right vice versa.

If competition works properly the consumer takes advantage of lower prices and higher quality of products and services. Contrariwise, if competition is infringed by anticompetitive conduct of undertakings the consumer is harmed – it would pay more for the offered product or service, possibly it receives a quality it would not accept under the normal circumstances.

Since the beginning of its existence the Antimonopoly Office has been seeking to fulfil its mission grounded in protection of competition with the aim to provide the consumer with the best outcome the functioning competition could offer.

After more than twenty years of existence both of market economy in Slovakia and the Office itself and after several legislative and organizational changes the Office sees the space for next step forward towards fulfillment of its main mission.

Strategy for next period is building a modern competition authority with meaningful policy resulting in clear benefit to consumer.

To achieve this aim the Office prepared set of following changes and measures ensuring the higher efficiency of Office´s activities in the organizational and matter of fact view and also the more vigorous enforcement of competition in Slovakia. 

Prioritisation of Office´s activities

The aim of prioritisation of Office´s activities is to focus the capacity of the Office mainly on handling meaningful competition issues. It is not the objective of the Office to spend its resources and taxpayers´ financials on sanctioning of conduct which constitute only ”formal” infringement of the Act without the real impact on consumers. In other words, out of all suspicions of Act infringements, the Office wants to solve right those influencing the large groups of consumers or those in which the very serious anticompetitive conducts occurred. This attitude reflects the pan-European trend of shift from a formal assessment of competition cases to effect-based approach or the so-called more economic approach. From this reason the Office decided to prioritise its activities and to focus mainly on the following areas:

  • Revealing and sanctioning of anticompetitive conducts with the impact on large group of consumers

The mission of the Office is to actually ”improve” the consumers´ position by its decision-making process. Hence, the Office will primarily deal with the anticompetitive conducts with negative impact on consumers´ benefit.

  • Revealing and sanctioning of the most serious anticompetitive conducts (for example
    price-fixing cartels)

Vigorous revealing and sanctioning of cartels should be the priority of each competition authority since the cartels represent one of the most serious infringements of competition rules. Hence, the Office decided that the Division of Agreements Restricting Competition will primarily focus on revealing and sanctioning the cartels and the agenda of vertical agreements will be transferred to the Division of Abuse of a Dominant Position.

  •  Competition advocacy activities
 The experience has shown us that in case of many complaints concerning alleged anticompetitive conduct using competition advocacy activities in the relevant sector seems to be more appropriate and efficient instead of fining procedures. These activities include wide range of tools such as explaining the competition issues through workshops, conferences, seminars and thus may lead to increased compliance with competition rules. The purpose is to assist the undertakings in keeping up with the competition rules and thus achieve the remedy in the market in ”non-violent” but effective manner. The Office will also continue in conducting the sector inquiries in which it emphasizes the competition imperfections in problematic sectors.

Legislative changes

Changes in the Act on Protection of Competition and its implementery regulations are crucial not only for solution of some application issues, but also for the legislative confirmation of changes in recent approach towards assessment of competition cases. In this connection the Office will submit mainly the following legislative drafts in short time:
  •  Acceleration and simplification of the merger control regime

 The Office plans further acceleration and simplification of administrative proceedings to the benefit of participants to the merger. This intent is in harmony with the Office´s effort to be client oriented, to decrease the administrative burden of undertakings and thus contribute to better business environment.

  •  Support to alternative solution of cases
Concepts of settlement and commitments serve to prompt and effective remedy in the market and the Office encourages the participants to the proceedings to use them. For the higher legal safeguard the rules for their application will be legislatively adjusted in the amendment to the Act in more details.
  • Leniency programme
Leniency program enabling the undertaking to obtain ”immunity from or reduction of fines” - for participation in the agreement restricting competition when it provides information on this agreement were subject to several changes at the European level. Considering the importance of this the Office wants to reflect the new European trends in draft of amendment to the Act.
  • Rights of defence and protection of information in the administrative proceedings
Prepared adjustment of protection and disclosure of information will ensure the balance of rights of defence of participants to the proceedings and protection of business secret and confidential information in such a manner that the rights of defence of the participant to the proceedings would not suffer any harm ultimately.
  • Changes in management of the Office
For the more effective management of the Office and unification of decision-making practice among the executive divisions the Deputy Chairman of the Office will be responsible for the first-instance administrative proceedings and will not be a member of the Council of the Office. Chairman of the Office will continue to act within the second instance proceedings and he will be a member of the Council of the Office. 

Changes in Office organization

For better work allocation and balanced use of its capacities the Office decided to realize also some changes in its internal organization 
  • Establishment of the Division of Chief Economist 
In accordance with the shift to more economic approach in dealing with competition cases the Office began to build the Division of Chief Economist, which will consist of the top competition economists and which will unify and strengthen the economic approach of the whole Office.
  • International relations
Agenda of international cooperation, which has been allocated in several divisions so far, will be concentrated and enhanced in order to create an internationally recognized and positively evaluated competition authority with the clearly profiled policy.
  •  Use of resources and capacities to deal with the competition cases
The aim of the Office is to use the Office´s resources for dealing with the competition cases as much as possible. In this respect, the Office will seek to optimize its internal procedures and to focus spare staff capacities on dealing with competition issues.

Public Relations

The Office will continue in moving its competition policy towards public through the organizing of workshops, conferences and seminars both on specific and more general issues of competition law. Building the relationships with public will also consist in the everyday agenda of the Office, especially in a flexible and non-bureaucratic approach.

We believe that the mentioned changes will contribute to a higher level of competition protection in the Slovak Republic and will constitute a benefit to the consumers. The Office will introduce the details of changes in a short time.
 
Last update: 02.12.2013