Access to the Commission’s file is one of the procedural guarantees intended to apply the principle of equality of arms and to protect rights of defence.
This specific right is distinct from the general right to access to documents under Regulation (EC) No 1049/2001, which is subject to different criteria and exceptions and pursues a different purpose
If an investigation leads to the adoption of a Statement of Objections, the Commission grants access to those documents that DG Competition has obtained, produced and/or assembled during the course of its investigation, as part of the "Access to file" procedure.
Access to the Commission’s investigative file is granted upon request and only to those undertakings/associations of undertakings to which a Statement of Objections is addressed.
If the Commission has decided to pursue the settlement procedure in a cartel case, the Commission will disclose information in its file to the parties that are engaged in settlement discussions,following the same process of submitting confidentiality claims and agreeing on a non-confidential version of the relevant evidence like in the ordinary procedure.
The right of access to the file does not extend to the parts of the file that contain business secrets or other confidential information, or to internal documents of the Commission or of the competition authorities of the Member States.
Oral statements made under the leniency programme are accessible only on Commission premises. Confidentiality claims cannot be made on oral statements.
Submissions of pre-existing documents annexed to leniency applications are provided to the parties under the normal access to file procedure in a non-confidential version.
How to claim confidentiality
Access is given to the parties of the proceeding to a non-confidential version of the relevant documents. In this way, the parties can protect their business secrets or other confidential information, as stated in the Commission’s Notice on Access to File and as explained in the Standard annex on business secrets and other confidential information.
In order to claim confidentiality, parties should provide a non-confidential version of their documents in which the information considered confidential is blackened out as well as a non-confidential summary and a justification for each confidentiality claim.
The non-confidential document should keep the same format as the original version. The Commission may ask for a draft non-confidential version of the submissions/documents in which the information claimed to be confidential is highlighted in a way that it remains legible.
A final non-confidential version in which information is blacked out will then only be submitted after the Commission has provisionally accepted the confidentiality claims.
The Commission will make these documents available to the parties on the eConfidentiality platform which is an online IT tool designed to host and orchestrate the confidentiality negotiations process in a secure workspace.
For more information on how to use the platform, see the eConfidentiality page.
The following documents provide guidance on how to create non-confidential versions of documents submitted to the Commission in the course of its investigation outside the eConfidentiality platform.
The examples of documents provided are based on a purely hypothetical case: AT.39XXX “Cookies”
DG Competition informal guidance paper on confidentiality claims
- The Cookies case file original documents
- Draft non-confidential versions of the documents in the Cookies case file with highlighted confidentiality claims
- Cookies case file final non-confidential documents