On Tuesday, December 4, the Council of the European Union adopted a directive which will bring the enforcement of competition rules in line with the digital age and tackle illegal competition practices in the EU. This adoption follows an agreement reached with the European Parliament at first reading.
The new rules will strengthen cooperation between national competition authorities and the European Commission, and will be an effective way of ensuring that free and open competition is not distorted in the internal market.
EU competition rules are enforced by the national competition authorities (NCAs) of the Member States in parallel to the Commission. The NCAs and the Commission form together a network of competition authorities, called the European Competition Network, which ensures that competition rules are applied.
Currently, differences in the application of these rules make that businesses engaged in anti-competitive practices can face different outcomes of proceedings depending on the country in which they are active. For example, businesses can, in some cases, avoid fines simply by restructuring.
Under the new rules, NCAs will be better equipped to detect agreements, decisions, or concerted practices prohibited by competition law and prevent any abuse of dominant position.
Emil Karanikolov, Minister for the economy of Bulgaria, stated, “Effective enforcement of competition rules is necessary to protect consumers from illegal business practices that keep the prices of goods and services artificially high. At the same time, the improved enforcement will ensure that companies compete fairly in Europe, enabling them to generate wealth and create jobs.”
Following the entry into force of the directive, Member States will have two years to incorporate the new provisions into their domestic law.