EU antitrust investigation process
EU antitrust investigation process

The following Competition practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • EU antitrust investigation process
  • Stages of an investigation
  • Third party complaints
  • Formal complaints
  • Informal complaints
  • Leniency
  • Making leniency applications—the process
  • Cooperating with the investigation
  • Interim measures
  • Gathering evidence
  • More...

The European Commission investigates evidences or allegations of anti-competitive behaviour by companies that has an impact in more than one EU country—for example, international price-fixing cartels and other forms of collusive conduct prohibited under Article 101(1) TFEU or circumstances where a company appears to abuse a dominant market position contrary to Article 102 TFEU.

Note—criminal action against individuals is possible in some Member States, but not by the Commission.

Investigations can start in one of four ways:

  1. a party involved in any wrongdoing blowing the whistle

  2. a third party making a complaint

  3. the Commission receiving general market intelligence which suggests that competition law has been breached—eg press reports or informal complaints from customers, and

  4. the Commission discovering alleged breaches of competition law during the course of a sector inquiry (see EU Sector inquiries).

Often a defendant might learn that it is under investigation only after the Commission has carried out an unannounced inspection (known as a ‘dawn raid’) or has issued information requests. Once started, an investigation will follow a set process. This allows those companies accused of wrongdoing the opportunity to defend themselves, including making written submissions and attending an oral hearing. There are not any deadlines for investigations and they often take several years to complete (see European Commission’s powers of inspection (dawn raids) and the rights of defence).

Ultimately, where the Commission finds that competition

Popular documents