The EU Courts Play a Crucial Role in Ensuring Compliance of the EU’s System of Competition Law Enforcement With Due Process Rights

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Georg Berrisch, Jun 16, 2014

In its Menarini ruling, the European Court of Human Rights held that fines imposed by the Italian antitrust authority for the violation of competition law are criminal charges and that, consequently, the requirements of Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights apply. However, ECtHR did not consider it incompatible with Article ECHR that these fines were adopted by an administrative authority and not an “independent and impartial tribunal established by law,” because, in the view of the ECtHR, it was sufficient that the Italian courts exercised a full review-and not just a legality control-of the fining decisions.

In Schindler, the Court of Justice of the EU, referring to the Menarini ruling, used essentially the same reasoning in finding that the EU’s system of antitrust enforcement is not contrary to Article 47 of the Charter-and hence Article 6 ECHR. Referring to its earlier ruling in Chalkor, the CJEU observed that the EU courts review both the facts and the law and have the powers to assess the evidence, to annul the contested decisions, and to alter the fine. It further held that, when reviewing the legality of a Commission decision imposing fines for violation of the EU’s competition rules, the EU courts cannot use the Commission’s discretion, either as regards the choice or the assessment of the factors used to set the fine, as a ground for not conducting of an in…

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