European Commission - Press release
Commission reforms antitrust procedures and expands role of Hearing Officer
Brussels, 17 October 2011 - The European Commission has adopted a package of measures aimed at increasing interaction with parties in antitrust proceedings and strengthening the mechanisms for safeguarding parties' procedural rights. These measures will increase the transparency and fairness of competition proceedings. They give parties a clear picture of what to expect at different stages of an antitrust investigation and increase their ability to interact with the Commission services. If parties have a dispute about their procedural rights they can refer the matter to the competition hearing officer, who will have an enhanced role throughout the entirety of antitrust proceedings.
Commission Vice-President in charge of competition policy Joaquín Almunia commented: "The procedural package demonstrates that we are willing to listen to stakeholders, learn from experience and make improvements, while maintaining efficient procedures. I think that all parties in competition proceedings will benefit from real improvements in practice".
The best practices notice introduces a number of novelties compared with an earlier draft presented in 2010, developed following public consultation and practical experience, such as:
The package also encompasses a revised Hearing Officer's mandate which strengthens and expands the role of the hearing officer. The hearing officer is independent from the case handling services and plays a crucial role as guardian of procedural rights in competition procedures. The new mandate notably enables the hearing officer to intervene during the investigatory phase of antitrust and certain merger proceedings.
The package also includes further developments to the best practices on submission of economic evidence.
Notice on Best Practices in antitrust proceedings
The Notice contains guidance on best practice aimed at ensuring that parties are better informed of the state of play throughout the course of proceedings. It also provides for greater interaction between Commission services and relevant parties from an early stage as follows. The following practices were put in place as from 2010 :
After a public consultation that was launched in January 2010, and having gained experience with the draft best practices, additional key improvements were introduced:
Revision of the Hearing Officer's mandate
The revised mandate strengthens the role of the Hearing Officer as the guardian of procedural rights.
Crucially, the Hearing Officer has new functions in the investigation phase:
Other key developments include:
Best Practices on the submission of economic evidence
Due to the increasing importance of economics in complex cases, the Commission often requests substantial economic data and parties often submit arguments based on complex economic theories or provide empirical analysis.
In order to streamline the submission and assessment of such evidence, the Best Practices outline the criteria economic and econometric analysis should fulfil and explains how they will be dealt with.
The package of documents is available at:
For more details, see MEMO/11/703