Latvia: The amendments increase the powers of the Competition Council, set new merger notification requirements and encourage private damages actions
On 15 June 2016 amendments to the Latvian Competition Law came into force. These aim to increase the investigative powers of the Competition Council, simplify merger notification requirements and encourage private parties to claim damages from culprits involved in anticompetitive behaviour.
In order to deal effectively with situations where information related to alleged anticompetitive behaviour is stored at the premises of a third party rather than with the suspect itself, the Competition Council can now enter premises and seize the evidence needed. In order to carry out such investigative action a prior court order is needed; the court should issue an order within two hours of an application being lodged. Additionally, the Competition Council can now – with court approval – require financial institutions and communications service providers to disclose information stored with them if that information is considered likely to facilitate the investigation.
The Competition Law now lays down a new criterion for a merger notification: specific combined and separate turnover thresholds of the merging entities. The market share thresholds have been abolished, thus relieving companies from a rather cumbersome assessment process. Mergers falling below the prescribed thresholds will be monitored by the Competition Council and for a period of one year the merging parties can be required to file a merger notification should suspicion arise that the merged entity is in a dominant position in the market. All merger notifications now require a state fee set by governmental regulations.
Last but not least, the law introduces a rebuttable presumption of a 10 % price increase resulting from a cartel. The aim of this regulation is to encourage cartel victims to bring private damages actions against participants of a cartel, thus providing an additional means of punishment and consequently serving as a deterrent for future practices.
Amendment to Latvian Competition Law