The enforcement of European competitiion law in cartel cases: seeking effectiveness in divergence

Date: 19 June 2017

Venue: UAntwerpen, Stadscampus, Promotiezaal Grauwzusters - Stadscampus - Gebouw S - Lange Sint-Annastraat 7 - 2000 Antwerpen (route: UAntwerpen, Stadscampus)

Time: 5:00 PM - 8:00 PM

PhD candidate: Angela Ortega González

Principal investigator: Anne-Marie Van den Bossche

Short description: PhD defence Angela Ortega González - Faculty of Law

Public anti-cartel enforcement takes places on two different levels: on the European level, where the Commission operates, and on the national level, where 28 competition authorities do their part of the job. While, the substantive EU rules are the same, the degree of convergence of detection tools and sanctioning systems is more limited given the lack of harmonization.

This thesis explores the public enforcement of the European anti-cartel provisions in the context of decentralisation. The primary objective is to determine whether effective enforcement can be secured on the basis of the current legal framework. This endeavor takes up three main challenges. The first challenge is to understand the real nature of cartels. This analysis serves to identify the defining features of cartel activity, which must be taken into account when designing enforcement systems. The second challenge is to assess the impact of recent modernization reforms as a means to enhance effectiveness. In other words, it is examined whether the decentralised model, combined with shared parallel competences, have led to the necessary coordination in order to achieve a consistent application of the anti-cartel provisions. The third (and most important) challenge is to establish whether the Commission’s enforcement tools should be seen as a blueprint for Member States that seek to enhance the effectiveness of their regimes. To the extent that the Commission’s tools contain caveats or major shortcomings, national anti-cartel regimes are explored.

This assessment identifies divergent enforcement approaches between the selected Member States and the Commission. In this exercise, particular attention is given to national instruments capable of enhancing the effectiveness of the Commission’s enforcement system. It is submitted that whereas the Commission’s model contains an important number of well-designed and appealing instruments that can serve as a benchmark for Member States, national systems have great potential to complement and improve the Commission’s regime as well. An integrated model, combining the Commission’s and the Member States’ enforcement mechanisms, is therefore recommended to boost effectiveness.

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