EU Sector inquiries
EU Sector inquiries

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

  • EU Sector inquiries
  • Sector inquiries and EU competition policy
  • Procedure for EU sector inquiries
  • The Commission’s information gathering powers
  • Potential action following sector inquiries
  • Examples of outcomes from EU sector inquiries

EU sector inquiries carried out under Article 17 of Regulation 1/2003 are industry wide probes where there are concerns that markets may not be working as well as they should be, but where the problem does not appear to be related to any unlawful action by individual companies.

The historic legal basis for EU sector inquiries can be found in Article 12 of Regulation 17/62. This was essentially an information gathering tool but it was rarely used. In the 1960s there were two inquiries (in the margarine and brewery sectors). It was not until 1999 that the Commission began to use the tool in a way that resembles its modern usage with a three-phase inquiry into the telecommunications sector.

Regulation 1/2003 provides the current legal basis for EU sector inquiries and contains similar, but strengthened, powers to those contained in Regulation 17/62 in respect of sector inquiries. Article 17 of Regulation 1/2003 provides that:

"Where the trend of trade between Member States, the rigidity of prices or other circumstances suggest that competition may be restricted or distorted within the [internal] market, the Commission may conduct its inquiry into a particular sector of the economy or into a particular type of agreements across various sectors. In the course of that inquiry, the Commission may request the undertakings or associations of undertakings concerned to supply the information necessary for

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