From November 2020, significant changes will be made to the Law of Georgia on Competition. The changes were conditioned by the obligation under the Free Trade Agreement with the European Union. It should be noted that before the amendments were implemented, the law contained a number of systemic or procedural shortcomings that prevented the Competition Agency from carrying out its activities effectively. The changes are aimed at eliminating these shortcomings and improving law enforcement mechanisms. Its main goal is to adopt effective and comprehensive legislation, which will ensure the creation of an appropriate environment for the development of competition in Georgia and the inadmissibility of all kinds of "anti-competitive" agreements or actions to protect this environment.
According to the updated law:
- Economic agents will be obliged to provide information to the Agency both during the investigation of the case and in the process of reviewing and monitoring the notification of the concentration, to which they were not obliged before the changes in the law;
- The deadlines for different procedures have been changed and increased in order to increase the time for the Agency to thoroughly investigate the issue and resolve it effectively;
- The inspection of economic agents will be carried out without prior notice (changes have also been made in the Administrative Procedure Code). In the old version, the procedure was carried out with the consent of the court, however, due to the lack of special procedural norms, the court was guided by general rules and notified economic agents in advance of the inspection, giving them time to destroy anti-competitive evidence. After the changes, this practice will change and, consequently, the court will not inform the economic agents in advance, which will help to establish the facts confirming the communication between the parties;
- Competence was separated between the Competition Agency and regulatory bodies. Regulators still have an obligation to enforce competition in their sectors, although they will be governed by the Competition Act.
It is important to note that prior to the amendments to the law, there was no appropriate sanction for its violation, which hindered the effective enforcement of the law. The implemented changes will eliminate this shortcoming. The Agency is authorized to impose fines on economic agents for non-compliance with the requirements imposed by law. In addition to imposing a fine, the Competition Agency has the right to petition the court to restore the original condition and demand that the economic agent be required to fulfill various obligations, including the alienation of the enterprise, shares, assets, as well as reorganization, termination of the contract and others.