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European Commission - Press release

Antitrust: European Competition Network report shows competition enforcement across the EU benefits all parts of the food sector

Brussels, 24 May 2012 - The European Competition Network (ECN) has published a report showing that active enforcement of competition law in the food sector across Europe, in particular at the processing and manufacturing levels, has benefitted farmers, suppliers and consumers. The report shows that the food sector has been a priority of competition authorities in Europe over the last few years and that their action has intensified since the food price crisis broke out in 2007. The ECN brings together the European Commission and the national competition authorities of the 27 Member States.

Joaquín Almunia, Commission Vice-President in charge of competition policy, said, "Competition authorities across Europe are working hard to ensure that food markets work for suppliers and consumers alike. Where there has been anticompetitive behaviour at any level of the food supply chain, competition authorities have swiftly addressed them. There are more things that could be done: some producers could restructure and pool activities in order to become more efficient while some countries still have unnecessary regulatory barriers at the retail level. Competition authorities are ready to help to address these issues at EU and national levels."

The report provides detailed information on how competition works in the food sector on the basis of the most recent activities carried out by both the European Commission and the national competition authorities in this area (see MEMO/12/373)

From 2004 to 2011, European competition authorities have investigated more than 180 antitrust cases, taken close to 1.300 merger decisions and undertaken more than 100 monitoring actions. The largest number of cases concerned processing and manufacturing and, to a lesser extent, retail levels. More than 50 cartels involving price fixing, market and customer allocation, and the exchange of sensitive business information have been prohibited, as have exclusionary practices that worked against farmers or suppliers.

In their market monitoring activities competition authorities have analysed how food markets are working. Much of this work has shown that there were many explanations for unfavourable market developments other than lack of competition among market players.

Competition authorities have also called for regulatory reform such as the amendment or repeal of laws hindering the development of retail stores and the adoption of codes or laws to address unfair commercial practices.

Finally, competition authorities have invited producers to increase efficiencies and strengthen their position in the value chain through, among other things, the creation of cooperatives.

The food sector will remain a high priority for European competition authorities. They are currently investigating about 60 further antitrust cases and carrying out further monitoring actions. As in the past, they will continue to coordinate their actions through the European Competition Network and will develop further this cooperation in the future.

Background

The report responds to requests by Members of the European Parliament for explanations about the actions taken by competition authorities in the food sector. It also follows the Commission's Communication on a better functioning food supply chain of 28 October 2009.

The Communication called for a common approach among competition authorities within the European Competition Network to better detect endemic problems specific to food markets and coordinate future actions.

The report is available at: http://ec.europa.eu/competition/ecn/documents.html

Contacts :

Antoine Colombani (+32 2 297 45 13)

Marisa Gonzalez Iglesias (+32 2 295 19 25)


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