Antitrust: Commission calls for strengthening position of national competition authorities to ensure effective enforcement of competition rules throughout the EU

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The European Commission has adopted a Communication identifying areas for action to enhance the enforcement of EU antitrust rules by national competition authorities (NCAs). Since 2004, both the Commission and NCAs have the power to fully enforce the EU’s antitrust rules. Based on ten years of experience, the Commission aims to further strengthen the position and tools of the NCAs. The Communication adopted today sets out priority areas where further progress is necessary. The Commission will then assess which policy initiatives should be taken to best achieve these goals.

"The EU’s competition rules are now being applied on a scale which the Commission could never have achieved on its own. This is a significant contribution to a level playing field for companies operating in the Single Market", said Commission Vice President in charge of competition policy Joaquín Almunia. "It is now time to build on the achievements of the last decade and make sure that the national competition authorities are truly independent and they all have a complete set of effective enforcement tools."

The entry into force of Regulation 1/2003 in 2004 transformed the competition enforcement landscape, giving NCAs and national courts a key role in applying the EU rules on restrictive business practices and abuses of dominant market positions (Articles 101 and 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union - TFEU). Since 2004, the Commission and the NCAs have adopted nearly 800 decisions, investigating a broad range of cases, involving different types of infringements and carrying out inquiries in key sectors of the economy.

Close cooperation between the Commission and the NCAs in the European Competition Network (ECN) has underpinned the coherent application of the EU competition rules by all enforcers.

The Communication "Ten Years of Antitrust Enforcement – achievements and future perspectives" adopted today identifies a number of areas in which further progress should be made:

  • guaranteeing the independence of NCAs in the exercise of their tasks and making sure that they have sufficient resources;

  • ensuring that NCAs have a complete set of effective investigative and decision-making tools; and

  • ensuring that effective tools for imposing deterrent and proportionate fines and well-designed leniency programmes are in place in all Member States; and avoiding disincentives for corporate leniency applicants.

The Communication is accompanied by two Staff Working Documents setting out:

(1) a facts-based review of public enforcement during 2004-2013 by the Commission and the NCAs; and

(2) an examination of key aspects of enforcement by the NCAs, with a view to further enhancing it.

The Communication and the Staff Working Documents are available at:

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