The aim of the protection of market competition is primarily to create benefits for consumers and equal conditions for all entrepreneurs on the market, who, acting in accordance with the existing rules and competing on the market with the quality, price and innovation of their products and services, contribute to the overall development of the economy.
CCA opens infringement proceeding against Croatian Chamber of Architects
The Croatian Competition Agency started ex-officio proceeding against the Croatian Chamber of Architects, Zagreb based on the complaint alleging distortion of competition by conclusion of a prohibited agreement within the meaning of Article 8 of the Croatian Competition Act.
After having conducted a preliminary market investigation in the services provided by certified architects based on the initiative submitted by the University of Zagreb, Faculty of Science, the Croatian Competition Agency (CCA) decided to open the infringement proceeding against the Croatian Chamber of Architects.
The complainant basically stated that the Croatian Chamber of Architects refused to assign a record number for the tendering process including the drafting of the bidding documents for the construction and outfitting of a modern research centre for the preparation, synthesis, categorisation, and study of new materials at the Faculty of Science. The complainant added that in the explanation of the refusal the Faculty of Science stated that the value of the estimated purchase price for the drafting of the design documents and technical specifications had not been in compliance with the legal requirements of the Croatian Chamber of Architects, specifically, with the Ordinance on tenders in the area of architecture, urbanism, interior design and landscape design of 14 July 2014 (Tendering Ordinance), and the Ordinance on norms in the provision of architects’ services of 13 December 2013 (Norms Ordinance), both available in the Croatian language on the website of the Croatian Chamber of Architects.
The results of the preliminary market investigation indicated that the Croatian Chamber of Architects has no power for price setting in the provision of architects’ services pursuant to the specific rules regulating the area concerned. In addition, there is circumstantial evidence that the Croatian Chamber of Architects has set minimum prices for the provision of certified architects’ services restricting their freedom to set the price of the service they provide, causing harm to final users of their services, which could constitute a prohibited agreement within the meaning of Article 8 of the Competition Act.
Thus, in this particular matter, the CCA will investigate into the provisions under the Tendering Ordinance and the Norms Ordinance raising competition concerns and assess their compliance with competition rules, in order to determine whether the application of the challenged provisions since 1 April 2019 constitutes a prohibited agreement in the sense of Article 8 of the Competition Act.
It must be noted here that the mere opening of an infringement procedure does not prejudice the CCA decision. The CCA decides on the merit on a case-by-case basis, considering all the relevant facts of the case.