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1 The fundamentals of EC competition law Overview, institutions and procedure Karen Williams Hearing Officer for competition proceedings European Commission.

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Presentation on theme: "1 The fundamentals of EC competition law Overview, institutions and procedure Karen Williams Hearing Officer for competition proceedings European Commission."— Presentation transcript:

1 1 The fundamentals of EC competition law Overview, institutions and procedure Karen Williams Hearing Officer for competition proceedings European Commission ABA Antitrust Section Spring Meeting 2005

2 2 The EU: expansion in scale and scope ■ Originally 6 Member States now grown to 25, with 450 million European citizens ■Only designated competences, but for those competences has primacy over national law ■Main focus initially on internal market objectives. Now much broader eg environment, research, plus monetary union and elements of political union

3 3 Fair competition – a basic objective from the start ■ Competition rules included in the Treaty (basic constitutional instrument) from the outset to provide level playing field within the internal market ■Competition policy was also used as a tool to achieve the internal market goal ■Main focus now : consumer welfare

4 4 Basic Treaty rules ■ Prohibition of anticompetitive agreements (Article 81) ■Prohibition of abusive behaviour (Article 82) ■Regulation of state aids ■Merger control not explicitly covered or regulated at EU level until secondary legislation (Merger Regulation) adopted in 1989 ■Antitrust rules were sufficiently clear to be directly applicable by national courts. However, Commission played the central role

5 5 European Commission ■ Executive of EU  Guardian of the Treaty - through recourse to the European courts - through direct enforcement (own decisions)  Shapes and manages a number of common policies  Initiates EU legislation ■ Coexists with  Legislative power : Council + Parliament  Judicial power : Court of First Instance (CFI) and European Court of Justice (ECJ)

6 6 Commission as competition regulator ■Since 1960s Commission has had main authority to enforce 81 and 82 in individual cases – power of investigation, decision and fines (Reg. 17/62) ■Since 1990 has also specific decision-making powers in merger control ■Commission has also directed policy at EU level:  Regulating certain behaviours or sectors of the economy through “group” exemptions  Issuing guidelines (notices)  Main interlocutor in international cooperation

7 7 Modernisation of antitrust ■In 1999 Commission launched major policy debate on reshaping regulation of antitrust within EU. ■Aims of modernisation:  Giving Member States powers and obligation to apply Articles 81 and 82 where interstate trade is affected leading to more and better directed enforcement at Commission and national level  Enforcement to be based on investigation and complaints, rather than “voluntary” notifications with immunity from fines ■New legislation adopted May 2004 (Reg 1/2003)

8 8 New legal framework for antitrust ■Three enforcers of Articles 81 and 82 Commission : National Competition Authorities (NCAs) Private persons through National Courts ■Substantive rules are the same but national procedures remain NCA’s however must guarantee same fundamental protection. Some “soft” harmonization in progress ■ National laws still applicable but very conditioned by EC law

9 9 Commission’s procedure ■ Decisions on cases proposed by Commissioner for Competition Policy, adopted by College of 25 Commissioners ■ Administrative procedure ■ Commission (DG Competition) investigates and decides ■Right to be heard (due process) : a fundamental right ■Procedure heavily rule-based with specific provisions for rights to be heard ■Checks and balances : other Commission services (especially Legal Service), NCA’s and Hearing Officers

10 10 Role of Hearing Officer ■Specific function of the Hearing Officer : guarantee due process by Commission ■Independent of DG COMP and reports directly to the Commissioner for Competition policy ■Organises and conducts oral hearings ■Decides certain areas of dispute, eg access to documents on the Commission’s file, confidentiality ■Can make observations to the Commissioner on any aspect of the case at any stage ■Provides final report on due process to the College before decision adopted (report published)

11 11 Judicial review ■ Final and most significant guarantee of due process and substantive legality ■ Court of First Instance -reviews facts and law. Broad scope for review -unlimited review of fines ■ Ultimate appeal to European Court of Justice (ECJ) on issues of law


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