Recent Developments in Cartel Enforcement at EC and UK Levels Adjusting the Mix of Carrots and Sticks

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Fabio Falconi, Nicole Kar, Sep 30, 2008

The detection and prosecution of cartels continues to be a key competition enforcement priority of the European Commission (“Commission”) and continues to grab headlines. In 2007 the Commission imposed the highest cartel fines in its history close to a 1 billion on members of the elevators and lifts cartel and 2008 to date has seen six dawn raids launched in relation to alleged cartel conduct involving over 30 undertakings. Although financial penalties and the offer of leniency in return for reduced penalties undoubtedly continue to be the cornerstone of the EU policy approach to the detection and deterrence of cartels, the Commission has explored additional measures including the recent launch of an administrative settlement procedure for cartel cases while work on measures to encourage private actions for damages for breach of EU competition law continues. Despite these measures, the EU regime lacks the strongest weapon in terms of cartel deterrence and the aspect most frequently lauded as the cornerstone of the U.S. cartel enforcement regime: the threat of criminal prosecution and imprisonment of individuals.