NOTARY FEES SET BY LITHUANIAN CHAMBER OF NOTARIES RESTRICTED COMPETITION
The Competition Council found that the Lithuanian Chamber of Notaries and members of its Presidium concluded an anti-competitive agreement by setting the amount of notary fees and agreeing upon their calculation procedure. The Council imposed EUR 88,400 fine on the Lithuanian Chamber of Notaries, and fines ranging from EUR 100 to EUR 20,800 on eight members of the Presidium for the infringements of the Law on Competition and the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union.
In Lithuania notary fees are approved by the order of the Minister of Justice. In majority of cases, current regulation leaves space for notaries to compete within the ranges of the fees that are set and choose the calculation procedure of the fees independently.
Having conducted the investigation, the Council concluded that the Lithuanian Chamber of Notaries and eight members of the Presidium adopted decisions, thereby setting the notary fees’ calculation procedure, which was stricter compared to that envisaged by the order of the Minister. These decisions restricted the ability of the notaries to apply lower notary fees and offer more favorable ones to consumers. For instance, the order envisages that notaries could charge from 0.2 to 0.3 per cent of the value of the assets but no less than EUR 14.48 and no more than EUR 144,81 for the approval of mortgage over assets. However, in 2017 the Presidium issued a clarification stating that notaries have to multiply the fee by the number of items being mortgaged, although the order itself does not contain such a requirement. As a result, notary fees for consumers might have increased at least several times.
The Council’s Chairman Šarūnas Keserauskas noted that notaries who perform functions important to Lithuanian citizens and the state have to comply with competition rules.
Having adopted the decisions which set notary fees, the Lithuanian Chamber of Notaries and members of the Presidium prevented all notaries from choosing the fee and its calculation independently. The freedom of notaries’ economic activity, as well as price competition was restricted, which resulted in the increased fees for consumers.
Šarūnas Keserauskas, Chairman of the Competition Council
During the investigation the Council also analysed legal provisions regulating the setting of notary fees. Having evaluated current legislation and its practical application, the Council sent recommendation to the Government to initiate amendments to the Law on Notaries and eliminate the obligation on the Ministry of Justice to negotiate notary fees with the Lithuanian Chamber of Notaries, a self-government institution which unites all notaries.
The Council has launched one more investigation into the alleged infringement of the Law on Competition in order to find out whether fixed and minimal notary fees approved by the Minister of Justice created conditions restricting competition, which prevented undertakings from competing on price and offering cheaper services.