EC Competition Law vs. Greek Competition Law: Conscious Parallelism or Unconscious Competition?

This article is part of a Chronicle. See more from this Chronicle

Lia Vitzilaiou, George Zohios, Jun 13, 2009

On April 30, 2009, one day before the 5th anniversary of the entry into force of Regulation 1/2003 on the reform of EC competition law procedural rules, the Commission of the European Communities published a Report on the functioning of the Regulation. In this Report, the Commission outlines its decision-making practices over the last five years and examines the impact of the new procedural arrangements on its productivity and duration of proceedings. Furthermore, the Commission describes its experience from its cooperation with National Competition Authorities (“NCAs”) and National Courts. One of the most radical reforms that Council Regulation 1/2003 brought about was the abolishment of the prior notification system of agreements for individual exemption under Art. 81(3) and the introduction of the “self-assessment” system, which allowed the parties to decide whether their agreement qualified for an exemption and was therefore legal. The main purpose of such reform, which rendered Art. 81 (3) directly applicable, was to reduce the Commission workload associated with hundreds of notifications many of which concerned agreements without any anticompetitive effects and allow it to “concentrate its resources on curbing the most serious infringements, while also relieving undertakings from considerable costs.” According to the Commission Report, this aim has been largely fulfilled, unnecessary bureaucracy has been reduced, and the Commission has been able to focus its resources on important competition issues requiring extensive analysis. The Report also points out that the majority of Member States have followed the model of Regulation 1/2003 and abolished the notification system of their national competition law; to date, national competition laws of more than 20 Member States operate without any notification obligation. A further success of Regulation 1/2003, pursuant to the Commission Report, was the creation of the European Network of Competition Authorities (“ECN”), which allowed NCAs and the Commission to effectively cooperate towards the uniform application of competition law within EEA a very challenging goal of the Modernization Package which has created concerns as to its feasibility. Such concerns are acknowledged by the Commission, which notes in its Report that there are still areas which merit improvement, such as the negative impact of national divergences in the NCAs fining powers, procedural rules, and treatment of unilateral conduct. The aforementioned Commission Report has major importance for Greece as it coincided with the presentation of a Bill aimed at reforming the existing national competition law, namely C.L. 703/1977. The Bill has two main goals, according to its preamble: a) to reinforce the role of the Hellenic Competition Commission (“HCC”) and b) to harmonize the Greek Competition Law to the acquis communautaire. The current legal regime indeed presents quite many discrepancies with the EC legislation; the main ones are stated below: