EU & Competition

Influence of a Directive on Damages Actions on the Croatian Legal Regime

Will the implementation of the Directive on Antitrust Damages Actions spur further progress on Croatian private enforcement?

Elements of private enforcement in Croatian law

The most recent amend­ments to the Croa­t­ian Com­pe­ti­tion Act (Act), which entered into force on 1 July 2013, have brought the long-antic­i­pat­ed first breath of sys­tem­at­ic reg­u­la­tion of pri­vate enforce­ment. The amend­ments, pri­mar­i­ly con­tained in Arti­cle 69a of the Act, are expect­ed, with good rea­son, to pro­vide ini­tial impe­tus in pro­ce­dures before Croa­t­ian courts to all par­ties that have suf­fered harm.1

Proposal for a directive2

Simul­ta­ne­ous­ly with the adop­tion of the amend­ments to the Act, at the EU lev­el, a process of align­ment of reg­u­la­tions on dam­ages actions for infringe­ments of com­pe­ti­tion law was under way (and is still ongo­ing) as the EU Com­mis­sion adopt­ed a pro­pos­al for a direc­tive on dam­ages actions for infringe­ments of the com­pe­ti­tion law pro­vi­sions (Direc­tive).

Regard­less of the dif­fer­ent expert views on the adop­tion of the Direc­tive, its effects are far reach­ing and it leaves a num­ber of open issues on imple­men­ta­tion with­in the Croa­t­ian legal frame­work. There­fore, it is a pity that the pro­pos­al for the Direc­tive was not con­sid­ered more seri­ous­ly in con­nec­tion with the adop­tion of the amend­ments to the Act.

Issues reg­u­lat­ed by the Direc­tive

The Direc­tive rep­re­sents an attempt to align the pro­ce­dur­al reg­u­la­tions of the mem­ber states with regard to (i) the dis­clo­sure of evi­dence in com­pli­ance with the prin­ci­ples of pro­por­tion­al­i­ty and pro­tec­tion of con­fi­den­tial infor­ma­tion, as well as with regard to access to case files of the com­pe­ti­tion author­i­ties; (ii) pro­vi­sions that set the min­i­mum lim­i­ta­tion peri­od; (iii) joint lia­bil­i­ty of offend­ers for suf­fered harm, with cer­tain excep­tions; (iv) detailed rules on the pass­ing of over­charges and quan­tifi­ca­tion of harm, and (vi) con­sen­su­al dis­pute res­o­lu­tion.

Impli­ca­tions of the Direc­tive

Inter­est­ing­ly, with­in the Croa­t­ian pro­ce­dur­al rules (whether in the Act or the Civ­il Pro­ce­dure Act), there are already solu­tions that (at least part­ly) com­ply with the require­ments of the Direc­tive. On the oth­er hand, the imple­men­ta­tion will cer­tain­ly have to be care­ful­ly planned, giv­en that the require­ments of the Direc­tive affect some of the insti­tu­tions that are eas­i­ly under­stand­able and have been con­firmed in detail by case law.

An example of the solution already known in the Croatian legal regime

The Direc­tive stip­u­lates the right to claim full com­pen­sa­tion for the suf­fered harm, which includes com­pen­sa­tion for actu­al loss and for loss of prof­it3, and inter­est. Such solu­tion is already ful­ly accept­ed as a stan­dard in the Croa­t­ian law.

Fur­ther­more, the Direc­tive envis­ages the bind­ing effect of final deci­sions of nation­al com­pe­ti­tion author­i­ties or by review­ing courts, mean­ing that the courts can­not take deci­sions run­ning counter to agree­ments, deci­sions, or prac­tices that are already the sub­jects of a final infringe­ment deci­sion.

How­ev­er, the amend­ments to the Act pro­vid­ed that the court when decid­ing on dam­age action shall take par­tic­u­lar­ly into account the final deci­sion of the Com­pe­ti­tion Agency or EU Com­mis­sion. Thus, the amend­ments to the Act do not stip­u­late that the court is bound by the final deci­sion of the Agency, which will even­tu­al­ly be cor­rect­ed, in our opin­ion, via a sta­bile body of case law on the pre­lim­i­nary ques­tions. Pur­suant to court prac­tice, the court is bound by a final admin­is­tra­tive act with­in the bound­aries of final­i­ty on the exis­tence of cer­tain rights or legal rela­tion­ships.4

Possible additional interventions in procedural rules

It should be point­ed out that the rules of civ­il pro­ce­dure reg­u­late grad­ual and man­i­fes­ta­tion law­suits gov­erned by arti­cle 186b of the Civ­il Pro­ce­dure Act and that might to some extent meet the require­ments set by the Direc­tive on dis­clo­sure of evi­dence.5 But the pro­vi­sions regard­ing the man­ner, the clas­si­fi­ca­tion of doc­u­ments, and when those doc­u­ments may be dis­closed will have to be adopt­ed sep­a­rate­ly. The Direc­tive clear­ly defines that nation­al courts, for exam­ple, can­not order a par­ty or a third par­ty to dis­close lenien­cy cor­po­rate state­ments or set­tle­ment sub­mis­sions. In this sense, addi­tion­al restric­tions, or a com­plete­ly new insti­tu­tion, will have to be intro­duced to answer to the require­ments of the Direc­tive.

In addi­tion, the man­ner in which the statute of lim­i­ta­tion is recog­nised by the Direc­tive is some­thing that will have to be care­ful­ly imple­ment­ed into the sys­tem, since it rep­re­sents a nov­el­ty for dam­ages actions, where the sub­jec­tive dead­line of the statute of lim­i­ta­tions would be extend­ed from three to five years.

Also, although it is rea­son­able to con­clude that courts would take the same stand as the Direc­tive (under­tak­ings that have infringed com­pe­ti­tion law through joint behav­iour are joint­ly and sev­er­al­ly liable for the dam­age caused by the infringe­ment), an inter­ven­tion will be nec­es­sary and mea­sures will have to be imple­ment­ed to at least pro­tect the lenien­cy appli­cant.6

A proposal for a Directive on damages actions for breaches of EU Competition law, if adopted in its present form, will have an immense impact on civil procedure in that the actions for damages for competition law infringements will be treated separately from the general process institutions.

1
Accord­ing to avail­able infor­ma­tion, the imple­men­ta­tion of this instru­ment of enforce­ment has not been con­firmed yet in pro­ce­dures before Croa­t­ian courts.
2
Direc­tive on cer­tain rules gov­ern­ing actions for dam­ages under nation­al law for infringe­ments of the com­pe­ti­tion law pro­vi­sions of the mem­ber states and of the Euro­pean Union.
3
The direc­tive, how­ev­er, only acknowl­edges estab­lished EU case law (eg, Joined Cas­es C‑295/04 to C‑298/04 Man­fre­di and Oth­ers).
4
Thus, a con­trario civ­il court may only decide on the pre­lim­i­nary issue out­side the bound­aries of final admin­is­tra­tive act (or deci­sion of the review court); eg, rul­ing of the High Com­mer­cial Court of the Repub­lic of Croa­t­ia (Viso­ki trgo­v­ač­ki sud Repub­like Hrvatske), case no. Pž-2871/01 of 3 June 2003.
5
Ele­ments of rules on sub­mis­sion of doc­u­ments in the pos­ses­sion of the oth­er par­ty, as pre­scribed by Arti­cle 233 of the Civ­il Pro­ce­dure Act, may also be used.
6
Arti­cle 11 para 2 of the Direc­tive pre­scribes that an under­tak­ing grant­ed immu­ni­ty from fines by a com­pe­ti­tion author­i­ty under a lenien­cy pro­gramme is liable to injured par­ties oth­er than its direct or indi­rect pur­chasers or providers only when such injured par­ties show that they are unable to obtain full com­pen­sa­tion from the oth­er under­tak­ings involved in the same com­pe­ti­tion law infringe­ment.

Utjecaj Direktive o zahtjevima za naknadu štete na hrvatski pravni režim

Hoće li implementacija Direktive o zahtjevima za naknadu štete zbog povreda propisa o tržišnom natjecanju potaknuti daljnji napredak privatno-pravne provedbe tržišnog natjecanja u Hrvatskoj?

Elementi privatno-pravne zaštite u hrvatskom pravu

Posljed­nje izm­jene Zakona o zašti­ti tržišnog nat­je­can­ja (Zakon), koje su stupile na snagu 1. srp­n­ja 2013., donijele su dugoočeki­vani dah prvog sus­tavnog ure­đen­ja pri­vat­no-pravne zaštite u svezi povre­da prav­i­la o zašti­ti tržišnog nat­je­can­ja. Od spomenu­tih izm­je­na, koje su pri­marno sadržane u članku 69.a Zakona, s pravom se očeku­je da pred hrvatskim sudovi­ma daju ini­ci­jal­ni zamašn­jak svim stranka­ma koje su pretr­p­jele šte­tu.1

Prijedlog Direktive2

Istovre­meno s usva­jan­jem spomenu­tih izm­je­na Zakona, na razi­ni Europske uni­je tra­jao je pro­ces ujed­nača­van­ja prav­i­la vezanih uz zaht­jeve za naknadu štete koja nas­ta­je povredama prav­i­la o zašti­ti­ti tržišnog nat­je­can­ja (a pos­tu­pak i dal­je tra­je), kako je Europ­s­ka komisi­ja usvo­ji­la pri­jed­log Direk­tive o prav­il­i­ma zaht­je­vi­ma za naknadu štete zbog povre­da prav­i­la o zašti­ti tržišnog nat­je­can­ja (Direk­ti­va).

Bez obzi­ra na različite stručne poglede i stavove koji prate usva­jan­je Direk­tive, njeni mogući učin­ci su dalekosežni te otvara­ju niz pitan­ja u pogle­du nači­na njene imple­mentaci­je u hrvats­ki pravni okvir. Sto­ga, osta­je izraz­i­ti žal­jen­je što pri­jed­log spomenute Direk­tive nije detaljni­je uzet u raz­ma­tran­je pri donošen­ju izm­je­na Zakona.

Odnosi koje Direk­ti­va ure­đu­je 

Pred­lože­na Direk­ti­va pred­stavl­ja pokušaj ujed­nača­van­ja pro­ces­nih prav­i­la zemal­ja član­i­ca u pogle­du (i) objave, odnos­no otkri­van­ja dokaznog mater­i­jala uz poš­ti­van­je načela pro­por­cional­nos­ti i zaštite pov­jerljivih infor­ma­ci­ja te pris­tu­pa doku­men­ti­ma spisa tijela za zašti­tu tržišnog nat­je­can­ja; (ii) prav­i­la koja određu­ju min­i­malne rokove zastare; (iii) zajed­ničke i sol­i­darne odgov­ornos­ti oso­ba koje su povri­jedile propise, uz pred­viđene izn­imke; (iv) detaljnih prav­i­la o pri­jeno­su nasta­log povišen­ja cijene na daljn­je sudionike u trgovi­ni i kvan­tifikaci­ji štete te (v) mirnom rješa­van­ju sporo­va.

Imp­likaci­je Direk­tive 

Zan­imlji­vo je za istaknu­ti kako unutar hrvatskih pro­ces­nih prav­i­la (bilo onih sadržanih u Zakonu ili u Zakonu o parničnom pos­tup­ku), već pos­to­je određe­na rješen­ja koji­ma se (barem dijelom) udo­vol­ja­va zaht­je­vi­ma Direk­tive. S druge strane, dio prav­i­la zasig­urno će morati biti promišl­jeno imple­men­ti­ran, ima­jući u vidu kako bi mogao utje­cati na neke od lako razumljivih insti­tu­ta, koji su pri tome jas­no uokvireni stvorenom sud­skom prak­som.

Primjeri rješenja koje hrvatski pravni poredak već poznaje

Direk­ti­va propisu­je pra­vo na punu nadok­nadu pretr­pljene štete3, što uključu­je nadok­nadu obične štete i izmak­le dobiti, kao i pri­pada­jućih kama­ta. Takav prist­up određen­ju štete, već je u cijelosti iden­tičan pri­h­vaćenom stan­dar­du hrvatskog pra­va u odno­su na zaht­jeve za naknadom štete.

Nadal­je, Direk­ti­va propisu­je obvezu­jući uči­nak pravo­moćnih odlu­ka tijela za zašti­tu tržišnog nat­je­can­ja ili sudo­va koji obavl­ja­ju upravno-sud­sku kon­trolu, što znači da parnični sudovi ne mogu usva­jati odluke koje bi dovodile do drukči­jeg utvrđen­ja spo­razu­ma, odluke ili pos­tu­pan­ja, a koji su već objekt pravo­moćne odluke.

Među­tim, izm­je­na­ma Zakona propisano je kako će nadležni (trgo­v­ač­ki) sud pri donošen­ju odluke o nakna­di štete oso­bito uzeti u obzir pravo­moćno rješen­je Agen­ci­je za zašti­tu tržišnog nat­je­can­ja ili Europske komisi­je. Dak­le, izm­jene Zakona ne propisu­ju da je sud vezan pravo­moćn­im rješen­jem Agen­ci­je, što će i pri­je mogućeg usva­jan­ja Direk­tive, barem pre­ma našem mišl­jen­ju, biti kori­gi­ra­no sta­bil­nom sud­skom prak­som u odno­su na insti­tut prethodnog pitan­ja. Naime, pre­ma sud­skoj prak­si, sud je vezan pravo­moćn­im upravn­im aktom, u grani­ca­ma nje­gove pravo­moćnos­ti, o tome pos­to­ji li neko pra­vo ili pravni odnos.4

Mogući dodatni zahvati u postojeća procesna rješenja

Tre­ba napomenu­ti kako prav­i­la hrvatskog parničnog pos­tup­ka ure­đu­ju stup­n­je­vite i/ili man­i­festaci­jske tužbe reg­uli­rane člankom 186.b Zakona o parničnom pos­tup­ku, a koje bi mogle, barem u određenoj mjeri, udo­volji­ti zaht­je­vi­ma postavl­jen­i­ma Direk­tivom u odno­su na objavu, odnos­no otkri­van­je dokaza.5 Ipak, prav­i­la u svezi nači­na korišten­ja doku­me­na­ta, nji­hove klasi­fikaci­je, kao i defini­ran­ja sluča­je­va kad takvi doku­men­ti mogu biti otkriveni — morat će biti poseb­no usvo­je­na. Naime, pred­lože­na Direk­ti­va jas­no defini­ra kako, prim­jerice, nacional­ni sud ne može nared­i­ti stran­ci ili trećoj oso­bi otkri­van­je izjave o sud­jelo­van­ju u kartelu ili pri­jed­lo­ga za nagod­bu. U tom smis­lu će se morati postavi­ti dodat­na ograničen­ja ili se uvesti u pot­punos­ti novi insti­tut kako bi mogao odgov­oriti zaht­je­vi­ma Direk­tive.

Dodat­no, način na koji je pre­poz­na­to pitan­je zastare morati će biti pažlji­vo uze­to u obzir pri imple­mentaci­ji u hrvats­ki pravni sus­tav. Novo rješen­je bi mog­lo pred­stavl­jati odmak od tip­ičnih zaht­je­va za naknadom štete, nar­avno, u ovis­nos­ti o mogućem proširen­ju sub­jek­tivnog roka zastare.

Ujed­no, iako je razum­no za očeki­vati da bi hrvats­ki sudovi zauzeli istov­je­tan stav onom pred­viđenom Direk­tivom (da su poduzetni­ci koji su počinili povre­du prav­i­la o zašti­ti tržišnog nat­je­can­ja zajed­ničkim pos­tu­pan­jem zajed­nič­ki i sol­i­darno odgov­orni za šte­tu koja je prois­tekla iz povrede), bit će potreb­no izvrši­ti inter­ven­ci­ju te imple­men­ti­rati mjere kako bi se zašti­tio sudionik kartela koji je obav­i­jes­tio tije­lo za zašti­tu tržišnog nat­je­can­ja o kartelu te pri tome dostavio potreb­ne podatke.

Prijedlog Direktive o zahtjevima za naknadu štete zbog povreda propisa Europske unije o zaštiti tržišnog natjecanja, ako bude usvojen u predloženom obliku, imat će značajan učinak na hrvatska parnična pravila dok će zahtjevi za naknadu štete radi povreda pravila o tržišnom natjecanju, radi niza posebnosti, biti tretirani izdvojeno u pogledu određenih procesnih instituta.

1
Pre­ma dos­tup­n­im infor­ma­ci­ja­ma, pred hrvatskim sudovi­ma još uvi­jek nije doš­lo do korišten­ja ovog instru­men­ta zaštite.
2
Engles­ka jez­ič­na verz­i­ja nazi­va Direk­tive glasi: “Direc­tive on cer­tain rules gov­ern­ing actions for dam­ages under nation­al law for infringe­ments of the com­pe­ti­tion law pro­vi­sions of the Mem­ber States and of the Euro­pean Union”.
3
Direk­ti­va ovime samo pre­poz­na­je već utvrđene stavove koji proi­zlaze iz prakse sudo­va Europske uni­je (npr. (spo­jeni pred­meti C-295/04 do C- 29804; Man­fre­di i dru­gi).
4
Sto­ga, a con­trario, parnični sud može odluči­vati o takvom prethod­nom pitan­ju samo izvan grani­ca pravo­moćnos­ti upravnog akta (ili posljedično odluke suda koji obavl­ja upravnu-sud­sku kon­trolu); npr. izraženi stav Visokog trgo­v­ačkog suda Repub­like Hrvatske od 3 lip­n­ja 2003, u pred­me­tu Pž-2871/01.
5
Ele­men­ti prav­i­la o pod­nošen­ju ispra­va i pozi­van­ju na isprave koje se nalaze u pos­je­du druge stranke u pos­tup­ku, a kako su određeni člankom 233. Zakona o parničnom pos­tup­ku, mogu također biti smis­leno uzeti u obzir pri imple­mentaci­ji.