Antitrust: Commission seeks feedback on performance of EU antitrust enforcement framework

(Source: European Commission)

The European Commission has launched today a call for evidence and a public consultation   inviting feedback on the performance of the EU Regulations which lay out the procedures for the application of EU competition rules (Regulation 1/2003 and Regulation 773/2004).  Interested parties can respond to the public consultation for 14 weeks, until 6 October 2022.

Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “Effective enforcement of EU antitrust rules is crucial to ensure that markets perform at their best. For almost two decades, the current procedural antitrust regulations have served us well. But in light of the challenges brought about by the digitisation of our economy, there may well be certain areas where improvements are possible or needed. Now is the time to take stock of the gained experience to ensure that the current rules remain up to date. We therefore invite all interested parties to share their views on whether the existing EU antitrust enforcement framework is still fit for purpose.”

The need for an evaluation

It has been almost 20 years since the adoption of the EU antitrust framework. While the Commission’s enforcement action has adapted to evolving markets, new technologies and changing ways of doing business, the procedural framework has remained largely the same.

Today’s consultation is part of a broader review exercise aimed at ensuring that the EU’s antitrust rules remain fit for purpose. The information collected through the consultation will provide part of the evidence to be used in the Commission’s evaluation.

In particular, the consultation addresses topics of particular importance for the evaluation, such as the Commission’s investigative powers, the procedural rights of parties to investigations and third parties, the Commission’s enforcement powers and the cooperation of the Commission with national competition authorities (‘NCA’) and courts.

The evaluation will help the Commission decide whether the current EU antitrust procedural framework should be maintained or changed.

Evaluation process

In addition to the public consultation, the evaluation will involve an expert survey in the framework of an external evaluation support study, one or more stakeholder workshops as well as a targeted consultation with NCAs.

The general public can respond to a general questionnaire, while interested parties with specific experience in dealing with antitrust procedural rules can respond to a longer and more detailed questionnaire.

The Commission will summarise the results of the evaluation exercise in a Staff Working Document that is planned to be published in the second quarter of 2024.

All details about the evaluation are available here.

Background

Regulation 1/2003 and its implementing act, Regulation 773/2004 establish a procedural framework aimed at ensuring the effective and uniform application of Articles 101 and 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. At the time of its adoption, Regulation 1/2003 represented a major reform of the way EU antitrust rules were enforced. In particular, it: (i) introduced a system of direct application of antitrust rules, (ii) empowered Member States to apply all aspects of the rules, (iii) strengthened the cooperation between the Commission and the NCAs, and (iv) enhanced the enforcement tools for the Commission to be better equipped to detect and address breaches of the EU antitrust rules.

In the Communication “Ten Years of Antitrust Enforcement under Regulation 1/2003: Achievements and Future Perspectives“, the Commission concluded that Regulation 1/2003 had considerably enhanced the antitrust enforcement across the EU. With the adoption of the ECN+ directive in 2018, targeting the powers of NCAs, the enforcement action at national level was further strengthened. This evaluation builds on these initiatives and is part of broader review exercise launched in the area of EU competition law in the past years.

The evaluation will be carried out under the Commission’s Better Regulation Guidelines, which set out the principles that the European Commission follows when preparing new initiatives and proposals and when managing and evaluating existing legislation.

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