Leniency in EU cartel cases

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

  • Leniency in EU cartel cases
  • Immunity from fines
  • Leniency—reduction in fines
  • Procedure for applying for immunity/leniency
  • Leniency procedure
  • Full cooperation
  • Confidentiality and disclosure of leniency documents
  • Transfer of information among Member States
  • International cartels and leniency

Leniency in EU cartel cases

The European Commission’s leniency program rewards undertakings involved in cartels (contrary to Article 101 TFEU) that come forward with evidence and information that enables the Commission to launch an investigation. Leniency is only available to undertakings involved in a cartel; it is not available in relation to other breaches of EU competition law.

The two main principles underlying the Commission’s leniency programme are:

  1. the earlier an applicant approaches the Commission, the greater the reward in terms of immunity from or a reduction in the fine, and

  2. greater rewards will depend on the value added by the information supplied over that which is already in the Commission’s possession.

There are two broad types of reward available under the Commission's leniency programme:

  1. immunity, resulting in 100% reduction in fine, generally available to the first undertaking to provide information about the cartel, and

  2. leniency, resulting in reductions in fines of up to 50%, generally available where the Commission already knows about the cartel to undertakings that provide evidence that adds significant value to the information already in the Commission's possession.

The current leniency policy is set out in the Commission's 2006 Leniency Notice which applies to all cases where an applicant applied for leniency after 8 December 2006. This reflects approaches to leniency in the US which can contribute to streamlining the procedure for applying for

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