A New Regime under the Malta Competition Act
17th June 2019
Last month, a Bill to amend the Competition Act (Chapter 379 of the Laws of Malta) was approved by the Malta Parliament and passed as law on 31 May 2019, as Act XVI of 2019 (see here). As a result of these amendments, the public enforcement of competition law in Malta has once again been revamped since the last revisions to the Act in 2011.
These amendments follow in the wake of the 2016 judgment of the Constitutional Court, in the names, Federation of Estate Agents v Director General (Competition) et (see also the Times of Malta article from 24 April 2015) which declared that the imposition of administrative penalties by non-judicial bodies in the case of a breach of the competition rules violate the provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of Malta with regards to the right to a fair hearing.
According to the new procedural rules under the Act, the Director General of the Malta national competition authority, i.e. the Office for Competition (OC), will no longer be able to directly issue infringement decisions imposing fines. Rather, the OC will have to institute proceedings before the Civil Courts (Commercial Section) to obtain a judgment confirming its finding of an infringement of the Competition Act, together, with a request, if required, for the Court to impose a penalty, as contemplated in the Act. There has also been a rethink on settlement and commitment procedures. The settlement procedure may only be concluded by a judgement of the Civil Court (Commercial Section), moreover, it is this same court which is to take a "commitment decision" in lieu of the Director General.
Lisa Abela is a Senior Associate at Camilleri Preziosi.