Under the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, confidential information is warranted special protection. At the same time, access to this information can be necessary for an addressee of a statement of objections to properly exercise its rights of defence. The Hearing Officer decides on requests for access to the file, balancing the interests of confidentiality against the undertaking's right to access information which is necessary for the proper exercise of its right to be heard. By the same token, the Hearing Officer decides on the disclosure of information whose content is claimed to be confidential when a Commission's decision is published.
Where the Commission intends to disclose information containing alleged business secrets, or other confidential information, the undertaking or person concerned must be informed by DG Competition of this intention and the reasons thereof, and be granted the opportunity to make known its views. If the undertaking or person concerned objects to the disclosure, it may refer the matter to the Hearing Officer, who will take a reasoned decision if he considers that the information may be disclosed because it does not constitute a business secret or other confidential information, or because there is an overriding interest in its disclosure. That decision will specify the date after which the information will be disclosed (not less than 1 week). Where appropriate, the Hearing Officer may decide that parts of the file which are indispensable for the exercise of a party's rights of defence will be made accessible in a restricted manner (e.g. data room).
The decision of the Hearing Officer ordering disclosure of information can be challenged by the addressee of the decision before the General Court.