Albanian Competition Law Overview
In Albania, the competition protection system is governed by law no. 9121, known as “On the Protection of Competition” (Competition Law). This law, which entered into force on December 1, 2003, is designed to harmonize the Albanian competition system with the acquis communautaire. The Albanian Competition Authority (ACA) is tasked with conducting ex ante and ex post investigations into market operations from a competition law standpoint.
The primary pillars of the Albanian Competition Law, closely following EU competition legislation, include the prohibition of restrictive agreements, abuse of dominant positions, and concentrations that negatively impact market competition when carried out by «undertakings.» Any domestic or foreign natural persons, public legal entities, or private legal entities engaged in a commercial activity that affects the national market are considered undertakings under this law.
PROHIBITION OF RESTRICTIVE AGREEMENTS
Agreements that aim to prevent, restrict, or distort competition in the market are prohibited under the Competition Law. However, exemptions may be granted by the ACA if certain conditions are met, either individually or on a category basis. The de minimis rule is also included in the Competition Law, allowing exemption from prohibition for agreements that do not significantly affect market competition. This applies when the market share of participating undertakings does not exceed 10% of the relevant market where they compete, or 15% where participants are not competitors.
Undertakings must notify the ACA of any restrictive agreements, which will then determine if these agreements are prohibited under the Competition Law.
REGULATION OF CONCENTRATIONS
The Competition Law outlines provisions for controlling concentrations of undertakings involving a lasting change of control, such as mergers, acquisitions, or the creation of joint ventures. Concentrations must be notified to the Albanian Competition Authority for authorization if they meet specific notification thresholds during the previous financial year. Notifications must be submitted within 30 days of the conclusion or signature of the relevant agreement and the announcement of any public bid.
Notification thresholds are met when (a) the combined worldwide turnover of all participating undertakings exceeds ALL 7 billion and the domestic turnover of at least one participating undertaking exceeds ALL 200 million, or (b) the combined domestic turnover of all participating undertakings exceeds ALL 400 million and the domestic turnover of at least one participating undertaking exceeds ALL 200 million.
For the ACA's assessment of concentrations, the Competition Law establishes both preliminary and in-depth procedures. In preliminary proceedings, the ACA examines the notification to determine if the concentration could substantially restrict market competition, especially as a result of creating or strengthening a dominant position. Following preliminary proceedings, the ACA may either allow the concentration subject to certain conditions or initiate in-depth proceedings. During in-depth proceedings, the ACA evaluates whether the concentration significantly restricts competition, particularly due to the creation or strengthening of a dominant position.
PREVENTION OF ABUSE OF DOMINANT POSITION
The Competition Law does not prohibit a dominant position in itself but rather the abuse of such a position. Single and collective dominant positions are recognized by the law, defined as economic power held by one or more undertakings that enable them to impede effective competition in the market, allowing them to act independently of other market participants such as competitors, clients, and consumers.
A non-exhaustive list of criteria for determining the existence of a dominant position or prohibited abusive behavior is provided by the Competition Law. Abusive behavior examples include fixing unfair sale or purchase prices and adopting discriminatory practices.