Lawyers told to end closed-shop ways

The Competition Commission seems to be on a collision course with the country’s lawyers over closed-shop practices which place barriers against entry to the profession. The Development Ministry’s General Secretariat for Competition has instructed the watchdog to order the lawyers to stop implementing regulations which set geographical restrictions on the practice of the profession, in violation of EU law. The secretariat issued its instructions after looking into the terms and conditions under which lawyers can work in civil and administrative courts, following a complaint. In a report which will be discussed by the plenum of the Competition Commission on April 17, it argues that the restrictions applied violate competition rules because a lawyer is not allowed to practice outside the area of the local professional association of which he is a member. Lawyers’ associations apply similar restrictions also in the case of the drafting of official contracts. Due to such practices, a citizen who chooses a lawyer based in another district to represent him in court faces double costs, having to pay additional accreditation fees. And there is no such possibility in cases involving the drafting of contracts. Despite the fact that such restrictions are the result of specific Greek legal provisions, the General Secretariat for Competition is instructing the commission «to order their non-implementation, in line with European Court rulings according to which a national competition watchdog is obliged to ensure that national provisions violating Community competition legislation are not implemented.» The recommendation of the secretariat is not mandatory for the watchdog, which will issue its decision after taking into account the views of all parties involved. Legal circles note that Brussels has in the past asked the Greek Justice Ministry to abolish such restrictive regulations. They also take the view that the Competition Commission’s decision to take up the matter is most likely the beginning of a «stronger reaction» against legislative provisions which form the basis of closed-shop practices and against vested professional interests which hinder competition in general.