The International Competition Community at Work

Paul Lugard, Jul 14, 2011

Over the past decade, the International Competition Network (“ICN”) has brought important changes to the substance, procedure, and administration of completion law. Founded in 2001 by 15 competition agencies as a virtual, practical, and results-oriented network of competition agencies to: (i) encourage the dissemination of antitrust experience and best practices; (ii) promote the advocacy role of antitrust agencies; and (iii) facilitate international cooperation among competition agencies, the ICN has since grown to 117 agencies from 103 jurisdictions.

Since its inception, the ICN has contributed significantly to the harmonization and convergence of procedural and substantive antitrust law and policy. ICN work products now cover most of the daily work of competition agencies in the fields of merger control, anti-cartel enforcement, and unilateral conduct, as well as matters that relate to the way competition agencies operate in practical terms; in particular, advocacy and agency effectiveness. With the participation of non-governmental advisers (“NGAs”), including private practitioners, academics, representatives of international organizations, and industry and consumer groups, the ICN has developed an impressive body of recommended practices, enforcement manuals, templates, reports on rules and legislation in force, databases, explanatory notes, and other materials.

The private sector has a significant and immediate interest in the work of the ICN, in particular its efforts to minimize incompatible outcomes across jurisdictions and reduce unnecessary costs and burdens from duplicative or inconsistent antitrust and merger control procedures. Indeed, as one commentator has eloquently put it: “for business, manoeuvring a balkanized antitrust terrain is costly.” That interest is likely to increase over the years to come as ICN work products are migrating to superior standards and are progressively implemented in national competition law and policy across the world. This trend is already clearly visible. Recently, 39 ICN competition agencies have reported using the ICN Anti-Cartel Enforcement Manual in their cartel investigations, while the ICN Recommended Practices for Merger Notification and Review Procedures have been influential in reforming national merger control regimes in more than two-thirds of the jurisdictions where such changes have been made.

Obviously, knowledge of the work of the ICN and agencies’ involvement in ICN projects may also provide valuable insights into those agencies’ policy agendas and may help to resolve individual cases. Finally, for private practitioners and other NGAs, the ICN offers a forum to make private sector experience and knowledge accessible to ICN-competition agencies and to interact with agency officials on those matters. This process of cross-fertilization also significantly contributes to the legitimacy of the ICN and the work product it produces.