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EU looks to boost power of national competition authorities

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EU looks to boost power of national competition authorities

Margrethe Vestager - Photo © European Union 2017

(BRUSSELS) - The European Commission set out new rules Wednesday to deepen partnership with national competition authorities by enabling them to be more effective enforcers of the EU's antitrust rules.

"EU antitrust rules make markets work better, with Member States' competition authorities and the Commission working hand in hand in this regard," said Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager: "That is why we want all national competition authorities to be able to take decisions fully independently and have effective tools at their disposal to stop and sanction infringements. Because a well-functioning Single Market is to the benefit of European consumers and businesses."

The main aim of the proposal is to ensure that when applying the same legal basis national competition authorities have the appropriate enforcement tools, in order to bring about a genuine common competition enforcement area.

The Commission and national competition authorities already work closely on enforcing EU antitrust rules in the framework of the European Competition Network (ECN). Since 2004, the Commission and national competition authorities have adopted over 1000 decisions, investigating a broad range of cases in all sectors of the economy. From 2004 till 2014, over 85% of all the decisions that applied EU antitrust rules were taken by national competition authorities.

The EU executive says it should not matter where a company is based within the Single Market when it comes to competition enforcement. By ensuring that national competition authorities can act effectively, the proposal aims to contribute to the objective of a Single Market promoting competitive markets, jobs and growth.

Once adopted, the proposed rules will provide the national competition authorities with a minimum common toolkit and effective enforcement powers, making sure they:

a) Act independently when enforcing EU antitrust rules and work in a fully impartial manner, without taking instructions from public or private entities.

b) Have the necessary financial and human resources to do their work.

c) Have all the powers needed to gather all relevant evidence, such as the right to search mobile phones, laptops and tablets.

d) Have adequate tools to impose proportionate and deterrent sanctions for breaches of EU antitrust rules. The proposal includes rules on parental liability and succession so that companies cannot escape fines through corporate re-structuring. National competition authorities will also be able to enforce the payment of fines against infringing companies that do not have a legal presence on their territory, an important feature since an increasing number of companies operate internationally.

e) Have coordinated leniency programmes which encourage companies to come forward with evidence of illegal cartels. This will increase the overall incentives for companies to participate in leniency programmes and report their participation in a cartel.

The proposal for a Directive, allowing national specificities to be respected - will now be transmitted to the European Parliament and Council for adoption. Once adopted, Member States have to transpose the provisions of the Directive into national law.

Empowering National Competition Authorities

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