This project concerns the application of competition law in the national courts of the EU Member States. Competition law seeks to regulate the market behaviour of businesses, for instance by prohibiting the abuse of monopoly power and the creation of cartels. A typical price-fixing cartel involves collusion between would-be competitors who agree to fix prices at levels above the competitive price, making excessive profits at the expense of consumers and society generally. EU and UK competition law have traditionally been enforced virtually exclusively by an administrative body, for instance by the imposition of considerable fines. These fines do not compensate directly any of the victims of the competition law infringements. The historical primacy of administrative enforcement in Europe is in stark contrast with US competition law ('antitrust law') where private enforcement constitutes the vast majority of antitrust enforcement. The availability of a well-developed system of class actions has ensured that private enforcement is extremely effective and can result in end-consumers being compensated for their losses. The US system emphasises the importance of consumer rights, an aspect which appears to be lacking in the EU. A Commission White Paper published in April 2008 made a number of interesting proposals to facilitate and harmonise competition litigation across the Community. Reform of the UK system was also proposed by the OFT in its 2007 Recommendations, not as yet implemented. Both sets of proposals in particular consider ways of facilitating consumer redress.There has been to date no comprehensive or systematic study of the case-law in which competition law issues have arisen in private litigation across the Member State legal systems, and this project will fill this lacuna. The project will be collaborative, with rapporteurs for each EU Member State and expert economic and comparative legal input. Each rapporteur will identify and provide details of all competition law cases before Member State courts over a period of ten years, in order to provide a comprehensive analysis of all competition law-related private litigation across the EU. This will allow for a clearer and fuller understanding of the obstacles to effective private enforcement, particularly in relation to consumers, and encourage learning and sharing of best practice. A recent cut-off point is necessary, and as Regulation 1/2003 came into force on 1 May 2004, and sought to enhance the role of the national courts in EU competition law enforcement, the intention is to consider all cases within the five year period either side of this date, i.e. 1 May 1999-30 April 2009. An economic overview of differences in procedural rules from an incentives perspective and a comparative review of differences in legal systems, litigation behaviour and other independent variables in a number of States will help us understand the legal context in which private enforcement exists, how it has been constrained and may be facilitated.This is a vitally important period for this research to be undertaken and disseminated, as private enforcement is viewed by competition authorities and practitioners as a key element of a more competitive UK and European economy. The proposed research will inform ongoing policy debates at the EU and UK following the Commission White Paper and OFT recommendations, which suggested ways of facilitating private competition litigation and access to justice for consumers. The research will thus be of value to academics, practitioners, the judiciary, consumer organisations, business, policy makers and public enforcement agencies. DG Competition of the European Commission and the UK Office of Fair Trading have indicated their strong support for the proposed research, and it will allow the OFT to learn from developments in other Member States to enhance access to justice, the competition litigation system, and indirectly competitiveness, in the UK.
|Effective start/end date||1/02/12 → 31/01/14|
- AHRC (Arts and Humanities Research Council): £106,405.00
EU member state