The following Competition practice note Produced in partnership with Dentons provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:
The principle of economic continuity enables the European Commission to attribute liability for a violation of EU competition law to a legal entity who has not committed the infringement. This option, which is often presented as an exception to the principle of personal responsibility, is subject to narrow limits set by the EU Courts.
Responsibility for committing a competition law infringement is in principle personal, owing to the nature and degree of severity of the ensuing penalties. Accordingly, the Commission shall normally impute liability on the legal person who ran the infringing business at the time the infringement was committed (the initial operator): this is the principle of personal responsibility.
However, in certain cases, the formalistic application of the principle of personal responsibility may affect the Commission’s ability to ensure effective enforcement of competition law, either because the initial operator no longer exists or because it underwent organisational changes.
Hence, the principle of economic continuity provides that when adopting a decision imposing fines, the Commission may, by way of exception, attribute liability to a legal person that did not run the business at the time the infringement was committed (the new operator). According to the EU Courts case-law, this exception only applies in the following circumstances:
when the initial operator no longer exists (legally or economically) when the infringement decision is adopted
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