Brussels, 22 November 2012
The European Competition Network (ECN), composed of the European Commission and the competition authorities of all EU Member States, has strengthened the Model Leniency Programme ("MLP"), around which ECN competition authorities align their own leniency procedures. The MLP was adopted in 2006 to make it easier for companies to apply for leniency where it is not clear which competition authority will take the case forward (MEMO/06/356). More information is available on the Commission's competition website
The ECN has now, in particular, clarified and simplified the information that must be provided by companies that are applying to several different authorities.
The three main changes are:
All leniency applicants applying to the Commission in cases concerning more than three Member States will be able to submit a summary application to national competition authorities. Previously, only the first applicant, i.e. the immunity applicant, was entitled to use summary applications under the MLP - although some national authorities had already extended the right to all applicants.
In addition, the ECN has agreed on a standard template for summary applications, which companies will be able to use in all Member States.
Finally, the ECN has published a list of national authorities which accept summary applications in English.
The MLP does not in itself have the effect of changing individual leniency programmes. By endorsing the revised MLP, the heads of the European competition authorities have agreed to use their best efforts to align their current and future leniency programmes and practices on the refined MLP. MLP changes will become operational when they have been introduced in the respective programmes or applied in practice.
Other changes include clarifications on conditions which applicants must meet in order to qualify for leniency - in particular on the duty to cooperate - and the scope of leniency programmes under the MLP, which covers secret cartels, also covering cartels which include vertical elements.
The revised text also clarifies that the ECN competition authorities should offer the same level of protection against disclosure for written and for oral leniency statements.
Leniency programmes are a key instrument in the fight against cartels in Europe, as they encourage companies to provide information about possible infringements to competition authorities. Leniency allows authorities to offer full immunity or a reduction in the fines that would otherwise have been imposed on a cartel member in exchange for disclosure of information on the cartel and cooperation with the authorities’ investigation. Given the secretive nature of cartels, this policy is indispensable to the detection of cartels and the enforcement of competition rules.
The MLP, endorsed by the ECN in 2006, offers a set of rules on which all ECN programmes can align (see MEMO/06/356). In November 2012, there were leniency programmes in 26 EU Member States, in addition to the Commission's own programme. They broadly follow the shared principles agreed by the ECN (see MEMO/09/456).
The MLP introduced summary applications to offer applicants a simplified way of applying at several national competition authorities alongside an application to the Commission in cases for which the Commission is particularly well placed, in particular cases covering more than three Member States. Summary applications lead to cost and time savings for applicants and authorities without jeopardizing the flexible work-sharing within the ECN.