Cartels, Fines, and Due Process

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Philip Lowe, Jun 30, 2009

The level of fines imposed by the Commission with respect to cartel infringements has increased considerably over the past decade. In recent years, the Commission has imposed a number of record fines for cartel infringements, including fines amounting to a total of EUR 1.384 billion on four companies in the Car glass cartel in 2008 and fines amounting to EUR 992 million imposed on four companies in the Elevators cartel in 2007. These fines are high, certainly. But I do not believe that they are too high. Some commentators from the legal and business communities argue that these fines are disproportionate. They question whether the current Commission procedures continue to be in compliance with principles of due process and whether criminal penalties for the individuals concerned would not be more appropriate than levying high fines on companies. I consider that the Commission’s current enforcement system based on deterrent administrative fines has been a tremendous success. It has managed to put an end to the view, long prevalent in Europe, that antitrust infringements are trivial. Companies are finally taking antitrust violations in Europe seriously.

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