The Office for the Protection of Economic Competition will in some cases be able to use access to police wiretapping of telecommunications traffic for the purposes of its work. On Wednesday, the House of Representatives inserted this option into the Act on the Protection of Economic Competition. The parliamentary economic committee came up with the proposal. Prime Minister Petr Fiala also supported him during Wednesday’s approval, and MPs across all clubs voted for him.
The government amendment is primarily intended to specify the requirements for the functioning of the office and its representatives. Edit also has the protection of the identity of whistleblowers of possible anti-competitive behavior.
The House of Representatives, on the proposal of the Economic Committee, inserted a provision in the amendment stating that the Office for the Protection of Economic Competition is authorized to use as evidence the recording of telecommunications traffic when carrying out supervision in the matter of the conclusion of a secret horizontal agreement or concerted action, the aim of which is to disrupt economic competition. data on telecommunications traffic or a record made during the monitoring of persons and things seized in criminal proceedings.
This will apply to evidence obtained in connection with the investigation of specified criminal offenses relating mainly to infringements of regulations on the rules of economic competition.
According to the same proposal of the economic committee, the mentioned records will be excluded from the possibility of viewing the file. However, it will only be possible to use such records that were taken only after the law enters into force.
“Currently, there are situations where the state has evidence of cartel agreements, but the law enforcement authorities cannot punish them because they cannot prove the subjective side of the crime. The authority proceeds with this evidence, which, however, cannot use it in cartel proceedings because he does not have the legal authority to do so,” ÚOHS spokesman Martin Švanda said earlier. At the same time, according to him, the Antimonopoly Office could punish such cartels, because legal entities have objective responsibility in competition law. Similar legislation was already in play in the past, the current proposal is narrower.
The change in the law is intended to strengthen the position of antitrust authorities in response to the 2018 European directive. It aims to ensure that the application of national competition law does not lead to a different result than the application of European law. It is also supposed to ensure that these authorities always have enough resources – financial, human and technical.
The law should have been introduced the year before, the Prime Minister points out
Prime Minister Fiala pointed out that the law introduces a European directive into the Czech legal system, for which the deadline for transposition already expired on February 4, 2021. For that reason, the amendment to the law is to take effect on the 15th day after its publication in the collection of laws. There is an urgent general interest in the need to prevent or mitigate damages that result from failure to meet the implementation deadline, he described.
The amendment inserts a provision into the Act on the competence of the antimonopoly office, according to which, in the exercise of its competence, it must proceed independently and impartially and must not accept instructions from public authorities and other persons. The bill explicitly stipulates the incompatibility of the position of the chairman of the antimonopoly office with other positions, for example a member of parliament or a senator. He will continue to be banned from membership in political parties.
The law should also newly regulate the secrecy of the identity of whistleblowers of possible violations of competition rules. If, at the same time as submitting information, the whistleblower requests that his identity be kept confidential, the office will have the option, but not the obligation, to comply. The condition will be that his legitimate interests could be threatened or damaged. However, the Office will have to proceed in the further investigation in such a way as not to defeat the purpose of concealing the whistleblower’s identity.
The amendment also extends to authorities and other state institutions the possibility to offer the antimonopoly office an undertaking that will lead to the restoration of competition on the market, if the office finds that someone has violated it. Until now, only companies had this option.
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