The decision by the Competition Council to impose a financial penalty on the Ministry of Justice over notary fees “is out of whack with legal reality”, according to the Lithuanian Chamber of Notaries.
“The Competition Council has decided to penalise the Ministry of Justice, which, together with the Ministry of Finance, has approved the fixed and minimum fees charged by notaries. That the Competition Council’s decision is groundless has already been proven in a court of law in a very similar case,” said Marius Stračkaitis, President of the Lithuanian Chamber of Notaries and a Klaipėda Notary.
He described as “absurd” the fact that the two-year investigation at the taxpayers’ expense had been focused on an outdated price list of notary services, which had been well known to the Competition Council for many years but was no longer valid. A fundamentally updated version of the list of notary service fees, approved by the order of the Minister of Justice, entered into force in June 2020. It was approved in line with the requirements for the determination of notary fees set out in the 2012 Law on the Notary Office.
The Competition Council did not even analyse the current price list in its investigation.
“The decision by the Competition Council to penalise the Ministry of Justice seems to be an ambitious act of revenge, because similar fictitious cartel allegations by the competition watchdog and its case against the Lithuanian Chamber of Notaries were previously refuted in court. After that, the present investigation was initiated, at the taxpayers’ expense, against the Ministry of Justice, which, pursuant to the provisions of the Law on the Notary Office, regulates notary activities by setting notary services fees together with the Ministry of Finance. The strangest part of this story is that the Competition Council was the entire time aware of the regulation of notary fees and had itself participated in advisory groups on notary fees, yet they only now managed to identify the alleged problem, which has been lying on their own desks all this time,” Mr Stračkaitis said.
He added that for several years the Competition Council had been trying to deny the fact, established by law, that notaries perform public functions of the state and can compete with each other only in the quality of their services and not in price. Therefore, the Law on the Notary Office obliges the Minister of Justice and the Minister of Finance to determine remuneration for public services provided by a notary as a state authorised entity, which is not equivalent to setting fees for commercial services. Thus, the Competition Council has imposed a penalty on the Ministry of Justice for performing the functions assigned to it.