The Hearing Officer organizes and conducts the oral hearings in antitrust and merger proceedings (Articles 10 to 13 of the Terms of Reference of the Hearing Officer ("Terms of Reference")).
The oral hearing is a unique forum where all of the companies accused of an infringement of the antitrust rules or involved in a proposed merger are given the opportunity to present their views to a wider audience, including the team of Commission officials in charge of the investigation, the senior management, the Legal Service and other associated Commission services, as well as representatives of the competition authorities of the Members States. The oral hearing, which is not public, takes place after the addressees of a statement of objections have submitted their written replies.
The Hearing Officer’s task to organize and conduct the oral hearing implies in particular:
- deciding on whether complainants and interested third persons are to be invited to the oral hearing (Article 6 of the Terms of Reference);
- ensuring the proper conduct of the hearing and contributing to the objectivity of the hearing itself and of any decision taken subsequently (Article 10(3));
- the possibility of inviting participants to make known their views on certain topics (Article 11(1));
- the possibility of holding preparatory meetings involving the Commission staff and the parties before the hearing (Article 11(2));
- dealing with all organisational aspects including date, duration, location and agenda of the hearing (Article 12(1));
- deciding whether fresh documents should be admitted during the hearing (Article 12(2));
- chairing the hearing and deciding on the admission of questions from and to all participants at the hearing (Article 12(3)); and
- deciding whether further written comments may be submitted by any of the parties to the proceedings after the hearing (Article 12(4)).
Oral hearings are not public.