The European Commission (the “Commission”) and the national competition authorities of the EU Member States (“NCAs”) cooperate with each other through the European Competition Network (ECN).
The ECN provides the Commission and the NCAs with a forum for the discussion and coordination of individual cases as well as general issues EU competition law. The cooperation within the ECN is at the heart of competition law enforcement in the EU.
After the entry into force of Regulation (EC) No. 1/2003, national competition authorities have also the power to apply Articles 101 and 102 TFEU. In this system of parallel competences, the ECN provides the Commission and the NCAs with a mechanism to ensure that such application is effective and coherent.
In particular, the Commission and the NCAs cooperate with each other by:
- informing each other of new cases and envisaged decisions;
- coordinating investigations and allocating cases;
- assisting each other with investigations;
- exchanging information; and
- discussing issues of common interest.
In order to ensure effective coordination, the members of the ECN seek to allocate proceedings to the competition authority or authorities that are "well placed" to investigate the alleged infringement. Where the Commission opens a formal investigation, NCAs are precluded from conducting parallel proceedings. With a view to ensuring the coherent application of EU competition law across the Union, NCAs notify their envisaged decisions under Article 101 and 102 TFEU to the Commission.
In addition, the ECN serves as an important forum for the discussion of general issues of EU competition law. To this end, the member of the ECN have set up various working groups that meet on a regular basis to discuss sector-specific or cross-sectoral issues such as enforcement priorities, best practices or current legal developments. These discussions allow the members of the ECN to pool their vast experience and to shape competition policy in Europe.
The members of the ECN also cooperate and exchange best practices in the area of merger control through the EU Merger Working Group.