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IP/10/2

Brussels, 6 th January 2010

Antitrust: improved transparency and predictability of proceedings

Detailed explanations concerning how European Commission antitrust procedures work in practice have just been published by the Commission's Directorate General for Competition (DG Competition) and the Hearing Officers on the Europa website in order to further enhance the transparency and the predictability of Commission antitrust proceedings. The explanations are outlined in three documents, namely Best Practices for antitrust proceedings, Best Practices for the submission of economic evidence (both in antitrust and merger proceedings) and Guidance on the role of the Hearing Officers in the context of antitrust proceedings. The documents will make it easier for companies under investigation to understand how the investigation will proceed, what they can expect from the Commission and what the Commission will expect from them. They will be applied by the Commission provisionally as from today, but stakeholders are invited to submit comments on the documents within 8 weeks with a view to adjusting them in the light of comments from interested parties.

Competition Commissioner Kroes commented: "The Commission has consistently given high priority to due process and fairness in antitrust proceedings. These three documents provide companies with further certainty and transparency about the relationship between them and the Commission during an antitrust case. I warmly invite all stakeholders to provide us with their comments on how to yet further improve our practices."

Best Practices in antitrust proceedings

The Best Practices in antitrust proceedings takes the reader through the A-Z of antitrust proceedings, starting with how the Commission decides whether to give priority to a certain case and ending with potential adoption of a decision.

The aim of the Best Practices is to further improve procedures by enhancing transparency, while at the same time ensuring the efficiency of the Commission's investigations. Important areas where the Commission will be amending its procedures include:

  • earlier opening of formal proceedings, as soon as the initial assessment phase has been concluded

  • offering state of play meetings to the parties at key points of the proceedings

  • disclosing key submissions, including giving early access to the complaint, so that parties can already express their views in the investigative phase

  • publicly announcing the opening and closure of procedures, as well as when Statement of Objections have been sent

  • providing guidance on how the new instrument of commitment procedures is used in practice.

Hearing Officers' Guidance Paper

Hearing Officers are the independent guardians of the rights of defence and other procedural rights of companies involved in competition proceedings. The aim of the Guidance is to make their role more transparent. The Paper not only sets out the various tasks of the Hearing Officers as established in their mandates but also outlines how they are usually carried out. It furthermore explains how companies can make best use of an Oral Hearing. Additionally, it provides companies subject to investigations, complainants and other third parties with a manual of when they can turn to the Hearing Officers to ensure due process is ensured. Finally, the Paper explains the reporting obligations and the advisory role of Hearing Officers towards the Competition Commissioner, the College of Commissioners and the addressees of Commission decisions.

Best Practices on submission of economic evidence

Considering the increasing importance of economics in complex cases, the Commission's competition department often makes requests for information asking for substantial economic data (for example used in econometric analysis) during its investigations. Parties also often submit arguments based on complex economic theories on their own initiative. In order to streamline the submission of such economic evidence, the Best Practices on economic evidence outline the criteria which these submissions should fulfil. It also explains the practice of the competition department's case teams and the Chief Economist when interacting with parties which submit economic evidence.

The consultation documents are available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/competition/consultations/2010_best_practices/index.html

Comments should be sent no later than 3 March 2010 to COMP-Best-Practices@ec.europa.eu or Hearing.Officer@ec.europa.eu


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