Cartels under Article 101 TFEU
Produced in partnership with Dentons
Cartels under Article 101 TFEU

The following Competition practice note produced in partnership with Dentons provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Cartels under Article 101 TFEU
  • What is a cartel?
  • Form of a cartel—agreement and concerted practices
  • Cartels' anti-competitive behaviours
  • Participants in a cartel
  • Does a cartel need to be secret?
  • Substantive analysis
  • Cartels as restrictions 'by object'
  • Possible defences under Article 101 TFEU
  • Procedural aspects of cartel investigations
  • More...

Cartels under Article 101 TFEU

Cartels are considered to be the most pernicious anti-competitive practices under Article 101 TFEU. As such, they are subject to a specific legal regime, which includes, inter alia, specific procedural tools (eg leniency programme and settlements).

What is a cartel?

Cartels are a major concern for competition authorities: since 2011 the European Commission, for example, has adopted over 30 cartel decisions. However, Article 101 TFEU does not provide a definition of cartels, nor does it make explicit mention of them.

Over time, the case law of the EU courts and the decisional practice of the Commission have attempted to provide greater clarity on the notion of what is a cartel and to identify the constitutive elements of a cartel violation.

Form of a cartel—agreement and concerted practices

Article 101 TFEU draws a distinction between:

  1. agreements between undertakings, and

  2. concerted practices.


The notion of an agreement implies that the parties adhere to a common plan that limits or is likely to limit their individual commercial conduct by determining how they will act or abstain from acting in the market.

The form of the agreement matters little. Anti-competitive agreements can be written, oral or even the result of a mere 'gentlemen’s agreement':

  1. in the Trucks (AT.39824) cartel, the parties held numerous meetings at senior management level at the fringe of trade fairs; they would also talk on the

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