On 18 September 2023, the new provisions of the Competition Law No. 183/2012 entered into force. The amendment of the Competition Law No. 183/2012 was made in order to implement the international commitments undertaken by the Republic of Moldova, in the context of obtaining the candidate country status for accession to the European Union and the Association Programme between the European Union and the Republic of Moldova 2021-2027.
Thereby, to maintain and harmonise the national regulatory framework to ensure free competition for businesses, the process of transposing Directive (EU) 2019/1 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 11 December 2018 to empower the competition authorities of the Member States to be more effective enforcers and to ensure the proper functioning of the internal market has been completed.
The purpose of adjusting the legal framework is to ensure the efficiency of the institution and maximum output in the specific areas of activity of the Competition Council.
Therewith, the amendment of Competition Law No. 183/2012 is necessary to reform and ensure the operational independence of the Competition Council, including the effective exercise of the powers conferred by law to investigate and ensure compliance with the general principles of EU competition law.
Given the aim of harmonising national legislation with the EU regulatory framework and implementing the best practices of EU Member States, the new law comes with several amendments, in particular it requires the interpretation of concepts in the law in accordance with the case law of the Court of Justice of the European Union and other interpretative instruments of the EU institutions.
The new provisions of the Competition Law No. 183/2012, come with several amendments relating to the regulation of economic concentrations, in particular the proposal to increase the notification thresholds. Thereby, economic concentration operations are to be notified to the Competition Council prior to their implementation, when the total worldwide turnover of the enterprises involved, recorded in the year preceding the operation, exceeds 50 000.000 MDL and there are at least two enterprises involved in the operation which have achieved on the territory of the Republic of Moldova, each individually, a total turnover exceeding 20 000.000 MDL in the year preceding the operation.
Another important provision concerns the granting of the Competition Council the right to prioritise the cases it investigates. This will allow it to focus on the most significant problems in the national economy.
The rights and obligations of the Competition Council during inspections have been brought into line with the provisions of Directive (EU) 2019/1. The competition authority may conduct the necessary inspections of any enterprise, joint venture or public authority. The new provisions clarify the rules for conducting inspections with the aim of ensuring that evidence of competition law infringements is obtained. In addition, the new provisions expressly allow the use of various specialised IT tools, equipment and software to identify, collect and gather relevant information during inspections.
Another change will provide for the possibility of hearing people at various stages of examining alleged signs of infringement, including remotely using electronic devices.
Ensuring the independence of the Competition Council in the exercise of its powers under the Law on Competition is absolutely necessary for the effective application of the competition rules, as laid down in Directive (EU) 2019/1. To this end, the law expressly provides for the elimination of any possible external interference, political interference or interference of any other nature which might cast doubt on the impartiality of the Competition Council in adopting decisions falling within its competence.
Therewith, the provisions that entered into force include the new powers of the Competition Council in the field of commercial advertising, the regulation of rail traffic and unfair commercial practices, established in accordance with national legislation.
The new provisions will contribute to raising the level of competitive culture in Moldova. These legislative changes bring more clarity and certainty both in terms of market competition, thus promoting a fairer and more predictable environment for businesses, and in the relations between businesses and the Competition Council, which should raise the level of confidence in the work of the competition authority in the Republic of Moldova.
These amendments are not only a step towards alignment with European rules, but also an important tool for creating a more transparent and competitive business environment, which can lead to increased investment and long-term economic prosperity.