Proposed amendments to the Competition Act would give the competition watchdog too much power – the right to search companies' premises and force them to prove their guilt, Center Party whip Jaanus Karilaid writes in daily Postimees' opinion section.
"Amendments to the Competition Act prepared under Minister of Justice Maris Lauri (Reform) would turn the Competition Authority into an unprecedently powerful state agency, with virtually unlimited authority to search entrepreneurs' premises, force them to prove their guilt as opposed to innocence and follow it up by fines stretching into millions," Karilaid writes in an opinion piece (link in Estonian) published on Thursday.
The bill has drawn criticism from the justice chancellor, Estonian Bar Association and University of Tartu legal experts, Karilaid continues.
"So, what is the problem? It starts with the need to adopt yet another European Union directive that obligates Estonia and other member states to render competition control more effective, including by hiking fine amounts. According to the directive, efficiency could be found in processing companies suspected of having violated rules outside criminal proceedings, while still retaining the option of ordering fines for violations," Karilaid writes. "Instead of adopting the directive in time, by February 2021, through entirely practical means (in short: misdemeanor proceedings), the Ministry of Justice has decided to invent a new and unprecedented solution. Namely, to give the watchdog the right to process entrepreneurs as if they were criminals from the start, while referring to proceedings as administrative for which considerably less stringent requirements are in place."
Minister of Justice Maris Lauri is a member of the Reform Party, Center's coalition partner in the government.
Editor: Marcus Turovski