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IP/08/1203

Brussels, 24th July 2008

Antitrust: Commission launches public consultation on keystone antitrust regulation

The European Commission has launched a public consultation on the functioning of the Council Regulation (1/2003) that sets out the rules for the Commission's enforcement of EC Treaty antitrust rules. This Regulation, which took effect on 1 May 2004, also entrusts national competition authorities and courts with the role of applying the EU antitrust rules, meaning that there is wide-spread enforcement of the same set of rules to prosecute cartels and other anti-competitive practices throughout Europe. The Commission is looking for views on all aspects of its implementation in practice. Regulation 1/2003 was the result of the most comprehensive reform of antitrust procedures since 1962. Its key objectives are more effective enforcement of EC antitrust rules in the interests of consumers and businesses, while bringing about a more level playing field and reducing red tape for companies operating in Europe. The Commission will use the results of the consultation to prepare the report on the functioning of Regulation 1/2003, which should be presented to the European Parliament and the Council by 1 May 2009. Interested parties are invited to submit their comments by 30 September 2008.

Regulation 1/2003 was a landmark reform, amounting to the most far-reaching overhaul of the EC antitrust procedures in more than 40 years. It modernised the procedural rules embodied in Council Regulation 17 of 1962, which govern how the EC Treaty's provisions on anti-competitive agreements (Article 81 of the EC Treaty) and abuses of dominant position (Article 82 of the EC Treaty) are enforced. Regulation 1/2003 is the legal basis of the Commission's investigation powers. It enables the Commission to impose fines for violations of EC antitrust law and to exchange information and coordinate enforcement action with national competition authorities.

Regulation 1/2003 simplified and strengthened antitrust enforcement by a number of key measures:

  • The abolition of the practice of notifying business agreements to the Commission, thereby ending bureaucracy and legal costs for companies and enabling the Commission to focus its resources on the important fight against cartels and other serious violations of the law that are truly harmful to competition.
  • Empowerment of national competition authorities and courts to apply EC antitrust rules in an effective manner, so that there are multiple enforcers.
  • More level playing field for businesses operating cross-border as all competition enforcers, including the national competition authorities and national courts, are obliged to apply EC antitrust rules to cases that affect trade between Member States.
  • Close cooperation between the Commission and national competition authorities in the European Competition Network (ECN).
  • Enhanced investigation tools for the Commission so that it is better equipped to detect breaches of the antitrust rules.

Article 44 of Regulation 1/2003 foresees that the Commission shall report on its functioning five years after its entry into application - by 1 May 2009. Receiving feedback from stakeholders is a key element of this report. The Commission welcomes comments from the business community and their representatives as well as other stakeholders who have had direct experience of the implementation of Regulation 1/2003, including courts, industry associations and consumer associations.

The Commission will analyse the outcome of this consultation as part of the factual basis for the preparation of the Report, alongside its own experience of applying Regulation 1/2003, feedback from national competition authorities and any other relevant sources.

The questionnaire for stakeholders is published on the Commission's website at: http://ec.europa.eu/comm/competition/consultations/open.html. Replies should be sent no later than 30 September 2008.


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