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Competition Policy

Overview

Council Regulation 1/2003 has created the European Competition Network (ECN), within which the European Commission and Member States' national competition authorities work closely on enforcing the EU antitrust rules.

This network underpins the coherent application of EU antitrust rules by all enforcers. Since 2004, the Commission and national competition authorities have adopted approximately 1500 decisions, investigating a broad range of cases in all sectors of the economy. From 2004 till 2021, more than 90% of the decisions that applied EU antitrust rules were taken by national competition authorities. So it's essential that national competition authorities have all the powers they need to apply the EU antitrust rules effectively.

 

ECN+

Directive to make national competition authorities more effective enforcers

In 2017, the Commission proposed a Directive to empower the competition authorities of Member States to be more effective enforcers and to ensure the proper functioning on the internal market.

This proposal was prompted by the Commission's Communication on Ten Years of Council Regulation 1/2003 (COM (2014) 453), which identified a number of areas where action was needed to enable national competition authorities to be more effective.

Directive (EU) 2019/1  was signed into law on 11 December 2018 and published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 14 January 2019. Member States had to transpose the Directive in national law by 4 February 2021.

The Directive aims to ensure that when applying the same legal basis - the EU antitrust rules - national competition authorities have the appropriate enforcement tools in order to bring about a genuine common competition enforcement area. To that end, the proposal provides for minimum guarantees and standards to empower national competition authorities to reach their full potential. More specifically, the Directive will allow national competition authorities to:

  • benefit from minimum guarantees of independence when applying EU competition rules;
  • have the basic guarantee of the human and financial resources they need to perform their tasks;
  • have an effective investigative and decision-making toolbox, including to gather digital evidence stored on mobile devices;
  • be able to impose effective, proportionate, and dissuasive fines;
  • have effective leniency programmes in place which encourage companies to report cartels throughout the EU;
  • provide each other with mutual assistance so that, for example companies with assets in other Member States cannot escape from paying fines.

 

Background documents

Ordinary legislative procedure and the Commission proposal

Preparatory work

The Commission carried out a public consultation between November 2015 and February 2016 on empowering the national competition authorities to be more effective enforcers: Replies to the 2015 public consultation

On 19 April 2016, the Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs of the European Parliament and the Commission's Competition Directorate General co-organised a Public Hearing on how to empower national competition authorities to be more effective enforcers.

View the entire Public Hearing.

Download the agenda and the presentations of the panellists.

The Commission's Communication on Ten Years of Council Regulation 1/2003 (COM (2014) 453) identified a number of areas of action to make the national competition authorities more effective enforcers:

  • Communication from the Commission - Ten Years of Antitrust Enforcement under Regulation 1/2003: Achievements and Future Perspectives en 
  • Commission Staff Working document - Ten Years of Antitrust Enforcement under Regulation 1/2003 en 

Commission Staff Working document - Enhancing competition enforcement by the Member States' competition authorities: institutional and procedural issues en