St. Gallen International Competition Law Forum Remarks Highlight Civil Competition-Law Enforcement & Cartel Victims’ Access to Evidence as Top-of-Agenda for Outgoing Commissioner
Joaquin ALMUNIA, Vice President of the European Commission responsible for Competition policy & enforcement, made the following (excerpted) remarks at the 2014 International Competition Law Forum held in St. Gallen.
From a practitioner’s perspective, the Commissioner’s emphasis on cartel victims’ access to evidence, his subtle reminder that the Directive merely sets a “minimum standard“, and the parallel observation that the upcoming collective redress Recommendation will be applicable across all policy (and legal) fields are important highlights of the prepared remarks.
I will start with the Directive on antitrust damages actions, which I regard as one of the most significant developments in the competition-policy domain in the current mandate.
Infringements of EU competition law are not only bad for the competitiveness of our economy. They also harm companies and consumers directly.
We recognise that every individual consumer and business has the right to be compensated for this damage. However, given the legal systems of EU countries, only a few victims obtain compensation in practice.
The time has come to translate our principles into actual practice.
Last year the Commission tabled a proposal to remove existing obstacles in national rules and make it easier for victims to obtain compensation across the EU through private enforcement.
The European Parliament and the Council have seized the opportunity and reached a political agreement with remarkable speed.
The Parliament voted the final text by an overwhelming majority, and the formal approval by the Council is expected before or shortly after the summer.
This outcome is a major success for a number of reasons.
First, from the perspective of victims, the Directive will make it easier for them to get hold of the evidence they need to prove the damage, because national courts will be empowered to order disclosure of relevant evidence.
The Directive also allows victims to rely on decisions taken by national competition authorities when these find an infringement.
Moreover, it introduces clear rules on several aspects of competition litigation, thus reducing the existing uncertainties, which have a cost for all parties.
From the perspective of the internal market, the Directive sets a minimum standard in all Member States, which means more legal certainty and a more level playing field throughout the EU.
Finally, from the perspective of competition authorities, the Directive fine-tunes the interaction between their work and the compensation claims by private parties. This is thanks to rules that preserve the incentives of companies to cooperate in antitrust investigations.
In parallel to the Directive, the Commission has also adopted a Recommendation inviting Member States to introduce collective redress mechanisms at national level by mid-2015.
The Recommendation includes basic principles that would ensure fair, timely and affordable procedures across the EU. The Recommendation is not limited to competition law but covers all policy fields.