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Wednesday, 13 January 2010

European Commission: procedures in competition cases

DG Competition has just published three papers explaining how their procedures work in practice (available at: http://ec.europa.eu/competition/consultations/2010_best_practices/index.html). The papers are called "Best Practices in proceedings concerning Article 101 and 102 TFEU" (procedures), "Best Practices on submission of economic evidence" (evidence) and "Guidance on the procedure of Hearing Officers" (Hearing Officers). This is not just a publication but a consultation inviting comments. While economists will no doubt have a lot to say about the evidence paper, the first paper on procedures will be of the most general interest. "Best Practices" is perhaps a misleading title as, although this is a useful and relatively short guide to the way such proceedings are conducted, whether these are the "Best Practices" is another question altogether.

There is not much that is surprising, but two comments can be made on the procedures document. First, as it makes clear, this document has to be read in the context of the myriad other documents which relate to European Commission procedures; from Regulation 1/2003 to the various guidance documents put out by the Commission. Secondly, the one thing that the document does not do is to give even indicative timescales for when the Commission will reach a decision during the various stages of proceedings. The one exception to this is that the Commission will endeavour to inform complainants what it is going to do within four months. Everything else, in terms of the timing of Commission decisions, is left open.

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