The Competition Protection Commission Ruled on the Compliance of the Amending Bill to the Bar Act with Competition Rules

On 22 April 2015, the Competition Protection Commission (CPC) issued its decision, proposing to the National Assembly to review the amending bill to the Bar Act, which had been lodged. The CPC proceedings were opened in accordance with the provisions of Art. 38(1)(1) of the Competition Protection Act (CPA) for an opinion of the CPC on the compliance of the amending bill to the Bar Act with competition rules. These powers of the CPC are also referred to as “competition advocacy”.

The proceedings were opened upon the flag filed by the Bulgarian Industrial Association and, in the course of the investigation, opinions were submitted also by the Ministry of Justice, the Consumer Protection Commission, the Supreme Bar Council, the Notary Chamber of the Republic of Bulgaria, the Chamber of Private Enforcement Agents, the Union of Legal Professionals in Bulgaria, the National Union of Legal Counsels, the Bulgarian Civil Society Law Centre, the Bulgarian Association of EU Programme Consultants, the Bulgarian Helsinki Committee, the Bulgarian Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Institute for Market Economy.

The Commission ruled that there was a risk for some of the legislative proposals to affect adversely the competitive process on the market for lawyers’ services and to harm the competition on other related or neighbouring markets. The CPC held that the proposed amendments would reduce the wellbeing of the consumers of lawyers’ services.

Insofar as CPC opinions on the compliance of bills and existing laws with competition rules are not binding on the relevant competent authorities, the law-makers should discuss the recommendations given by the CPC in its decision so that to assess their justification, while, of course, taking into consideration all public interests, including those related to the main objective of the regulation of lawyers’ activities, i.e. the safeguarding of the professional level, responsibility and quality of the services provided.