From the enforcer: Directorate General for Competition

EU: from the enforcer

Address: B-1049 Brussels, Belgium
Tel: +32 2 29 91111 (switchboard, European Commission)
Fax: +32 2 29 55437 (for general questions, DG Competition)
Email: [email protected] (for general questions, DG Competition)

For queries relating to the response to this questionnaire:

Alexander Winterstein
Tel: +32 2 29 93265
Email: [email protected]

Contacts

Margrethe Vestager
Executive Vice President, and Commissioner Responsible for Competition Policy
https://ec.europa.eu/commission/commissioners/2019-2024/vestager_en

Olivier Guersent
Director General
Tel: +32 2 29 65414

Tobias Maass
Assistant to the Director General
el: +32 2 29 51851

Yizhou Ren
Assistant to the Director General
Tel: +32 229-94889

Pierre Régibeau
Chief Competition Economist
Tel: +32 2 29 95837

Karl Soukup (acting)
Deputy Director General with special responsibility for state aid
Tel: +32 2 29 67442

Linsey McCallum
Deputy Director General with special responsibility for antitrust
Tel: +32 2 29 90122

Guillaume Loriot
Deputy Director General with special responsibility for mergers
Tel: +32 2 29 84988

Thomas Deisenhofer
Principal Adviser: Ex-post economic evaluation
Tel: +32 2 29 85081

Flavio Laina

Head of Unit DDG1.02 Intelligence, Analysis and Forensic IT Support

Astrid Cousin
Head of Unit 01: Commission Priorities and Strategic Coordination
Tel: +32 2 29 66602

Directorate A

Inge Bernaerts
Director, Directorate A: Policy and Strategy
Tel: +32 2 29 51888

Sophie Moonen
Head of Unit A1: Antitrust Case Support and Policy

Julia Brockhoff
Head of Unit A2: Merger Case Support and Policy

Koen Van de Casteele
Head of Unit A3: State Aid Case Support and Policy
Anna Vernet
Head of Unit A4: European Competition Network and Private Enforcement

Eddy De Smijter
Head of Unit A5: International Relations and Task Force Third Country Subsidies

Directorate B

Anna Colucci
Director, Directorate B, Markets and Cases I Energy and Environment
Tel: +32 2 29 68319

Marieke Scholz
Head of Unit B1: Antitrust Energy, Environment

Nicola Pesaresi
Head of Unit B2: State Aid I

Peer Ritter
Head of Unit B3: State Aid II

Frank Dupont
Head of Unit B4: Mergers

Directorate C

Alberto Bacchiega
Director, Directorate C: Markets and Cases II, Information, Communication and Media
Tel: +32 2 29 84988

Hanna Antilainen
Head of Unit C1: Antitrust:  Electronic Communications

Friedrich Wenzel Bulst
Head of Unit C2: Antitrust, Media

(vacant)
Head of Unit C3: Antitrust, IT, Internet and Consumer Electronics

Krzysztof Kuik
Head of Unit C4: State Aid

Annemiek Wilpshaar
Head of Unit C5: Mergers

Thomas Kramler
Head of Unit C6: Antitrust: E-commerce and data economy

Directorate D

Barbara Brandtner (acting)
Acting Director, Directorate D: Markets and Cases III, Financial Services
Tel: +32 2 29 56398

Barbara Brandtner
Head of Unit D1: Antitrust, Payment Systems

Jean Bergevin
Head of Unit D2: Antitrust, Financial Services

Andrea Bomhoff
Head of Unit D3: State Aid Financial Institutions I

Agata Mazurkiewicz
Head of Unit D4: State Aid Financial Institutions II

Ulla Schwager
Head of Unit D5: Mergers

Directorate E

Paul Csiszar
Director, Directorate E: Markets and Cases IV, Basic Industries, Manufacturing and Agriculture
Tel: +32 2 29 84669

Rainer Becker
Head of Unit E1: Antitrust, Pharma and Health Services

Natalia Lazarova
Head of Unit E2: Antitrust, Consumer Goods, Basic Industries and Manufacturing

Eduardo Martínez Rivero
Head of Unit E3: State Aid: Industrial Restructuring

Daniele Calisti
Head of Unit E4: Mergers

Philippe Chauve (acting)
Acting Head of Unit E5: Antitrust, Agriculture, Food and Fast-Moving consumer Goods

Directorate F

Henrik Mørch
Director, Directorate F: Markets and Cases V, Transport, Post and Other Services
Tel: +32 2 29 50766

Daniel Boeshertz
Head of Unit F1: Antitrust, Transport, Post and Other Services

Christina Siaterli
Head of Unit F2: State Aid, Transport

Monique Negenman
Head of Unit F3: State Aid, Post and Other Services

Birthe Panhans
Head of Unit F4: Mergers

Directorate G

Maria Jaspers Director, Directorate G: Cartels
Tel: +32 2 29 62577

Corinne Dussart-Lefret
Head of Unit G1: Cartels I

Brigitta Renner-Loquenz
Head of Unit G2: Cartels II

Claudia De Cesaris
Head of Unit G3: Cartels III

Gerald Miersch
Head of Unit G4: Cartels IV

Directorate H

Karl Soukup
Director, Directorate H: State Aid: General Scrutiny and Enforcement
Tel: +32 2 29 67442

Hubert De Broca
Head of Unit H1: Infrastructure and Regional aid

Demos Spatharis
Head of Unit H2: IPCEI, Environment and Innovation I

Max Lienemeyer
Head of Unit H3: IPCEI, Environment and Innovation II

Kristine Liljeberg
Head of Unit H4: Enforcement and Monitoring

Harold Nyssens
Head of Unit H5: Fiscal Aid and Aggressive Tax Practices

Gereon Thiele
Head of Unit H6: Agriculture & Fisheries

Directorate I

Maria Velentza
Director, Directorate I: General Affairs
Tel: +32 2 29 51723

Glykeria Demataki
Head of Unit I1: Registry and Transparency

Sari Suurnakki
Head of Unit I2: Finance and Internal Compliance

Leontina Sandu
Head of Unit I3:Digital Business Solutions

Téa Broms
Head of Unit I4: Better Regulation, Planning and Internal Control, European Semester

Alexander Winterstein
Head of Unit I5: Communications Policy

Questions and answers

How long is the head of agency’s term of office?

The European Commission (the Commission) is made up of a College of Commissioners, the members of which are appointed for five years. Renewal of appointment as a member is possible.

When is he or she due for reappointment?

The term of the current College of Commissioners (including the Executive Vice President, and Commissioner Responsible for Competition Policy (the Commissioner)) expires in October 2024.

Which posts within the organisation are political appointments?

The Commissioner is a political appointment: like all commissioners, he or she is nominated by the President of the European Commission and appointed by the Council of the EU after confirmation by the European Parliament.

What is the agency’s annual budget?

The budget for 2020 was €116.3 million.

How many staff are employed by the agency?

At the end of 2020, DG Competition employed 798 permanent staff (officials and temporary agents). This figure excludes staff on fixed-term contracts and vacancies.

To whom does the head of the agency report?

The Competition Commissioner is a member of the College of Commissioners making up the European Commission. The Commission is an independent institution. Its decisions in the area of competition are subject to judicial review by the EU courts.

Do any industry-specific regulators have competition powers?

Not at EU level.

If so, how do these relate to your agency’s role?

Not applicable.

May politicians overrule or disregard authority’s decisions? If they have ever exercised this right, describe the most recent example.

No. Final decisions are made by the College of Commissioners, appointed as set out above. Neither the Council of Ministers nor the European Parliament can overrule or disregard Commission decisions.

Does the law allow non-competition aims to be considered when your agency takes decisions?

When acting under the antitrust and merger rules, the Commission applies only competition criteria and analyses different parameters that may be relevant in that regard, such as price, quality or other features that are valued by consumers, including the environmental characteristics of a product or service in question.

In the field of state aid, when examining whether a measure constitutes aid, the Commission only assesses the effects of the measure on competition and trade between EU member states. However, when assessing the compatibility of a given aid with the Treaty, the Commission balances the effects of the measures for competition and trade with the positive effects of the measures also in terms of achieving objectives of common interest, such as the creation of jobs, environmental protection, cohesion policy or the development of small and medium-sized enterprises.

Which body hears appeals against the agency’s decisions? Is there any form of judicial review beyond that mentioned above? If so, which body conducts this? Has any competition decision by the agency been overturned?

Every Commission decision is subject to judicial review on all points of fact and law by the EU courts (General Court and Court of Justice) in Luxembourg. General Court rulings may be appealed on points of law to the European Court of Justice. The Commission has a policy of systematically reviewing court judgments, including those on procedural issues, to ensure that appropriate lessons are learned for the future.

Has the authority ever blocked a proposed merger? If yes, please provide the most recent instances.

The Commission has blocked 30 transactions out of 7544 since 1989. This represents less than 0.5 per cent of the number of cases notified. The three most recent prohibition decisions were adopted in 2019, in the cases Siemens/AlstomWieland/Aurubis Rolled Products/Schwermetall and Tata Steel/Thyssenkrupp/JV. No mergers were prohibited in 2020 and 2021 (up to date on 15 November 2021).

Has the authority ever imposed conditions on a proposed merger? If yes, please provide the most recent instances.

The Commission has imposed conditions in numerous cases since 1989. In 2020, 17 cases were conditionally approved.

Thirteen were approved within Phase I proceedings:

  • M.9461 Abbvie/Allergen (10/01/2020);
  • M.9502 Synthomer/Omnova (15/01/2020);
  • M.9408 Assa Abloy/Agta Record (27/02/2020);
  • M.9674 Telecom Italia/Vodafone/INWIT (06/03/2020);
  • M.9434 United Technologies Corporation (UTC)/Raytheon (13/03/2020);
  • M.9546 Gategroup/Lufthansa Service Group (LSG EU) (03/04/2020);
  • M.9517 Mylan/Upjohn (22/04/2020);
  • M.9554 Elanco Animal Health /Bayer Animal Health (08/06/2020);
  • M.9779 Alstom/Bombardier Transportation (31/07/2020);
  • M.9744 Mastercard/Nets (17/08/2020);
  • M.9776 Worldline/Ingenico (30/09/2020);
  • M.9728 Altice/Allianz/Omers/Covage (27/11/2020); and
  • M.9677 DIC Corporation/BASF Colours and Effects (07/12/2020).

Three were approved within Phase II proceedings:

  • M.9014 PKN Orlen/Lotos (14/07/2020);
  • M.9660 Google acquires Fitbit (17/12/2020); and
  • M.9730 Fiat Chrysler (FCA)/Peugeot S.A (PSA) (21/12/2020).

One case was approved unconditionally following a Phase II investigation (M.9409 Arubis/Metallo).

Between 1 January 2021 and 15 November 2021, nine cases were conditionally approved. Five of them were approved within Phase I proceedings:

  • M.9686 Mitsui/Belchim Crop Protection (11/02/2021);
  • M.9945 Siemens Healthineers/Varian Medical Systems (19/02/2021);
  • M.10047 Schwarz Group/Suez Waste Management (14/04/2021);
  • M.10153 Orange/Telekom Romania Communications (28/07/2021); and
  • M.10108 S&P Global/IHS Markit (22/10/2021).

Four of them were approved within Phase II proceedings:

  • M.9564 LSEG/Refinitiv Business (13/01/2021);
  • M.9820 Danfoss/Eaton Hydraulics (18/03/2021);
  • M.9569 EssilorLuxottica /GrandVision (23/03/2021); and
  • M.9829 Aon/Willis Towers Watson (09/07/2021).

Has the authority conducted a Phase II investigation in any of its merger filings? If yes, please provide the most recent instances.

The Commission has opened numerous Phase II investigations since 1989.

In 2020, three cases required remedies following an in-depth Phase II investigation and one case was cleared unconditionally following a Phase II investigation (M.9409 Arubis/Metallo). No cases were prohibited following a Phase II investigation and two cases were withdrawn after the opening of a Phase II investigation.

Between 1 January 2021 and 15 November 2021, four cases required remedies following an in-depth Phase II investigation and no cases were cleared unconditionally following a Phase II investigation. No cases were prohibited following a Phase II investigation and two cases were withdrawn after the opening of a Phase II investigation.

Has the authority ever pursued a company based outside your jurisdiction for a cartel offence? If yes, please provide the most recent instances.

Yes, the Commission has pursued companies based outside the EU in several cases.

Article 101(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) prohibits cartels or other anticompetitive agreements, which have as their object or effect the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition within the EU. The Commission therefore may fine companies that are based outside the EU if the anticompetitive behaviour is either implemented inside the EU or produces effects inside the EU, or when a parent company outside the EU is liable for the conduct of an EU subsidiary.

Recent cases include a cartel involving ethylene purchasers (the four companies were from the US (two companies), from Mexico and from Switzerland) and two foreign exchange spot trading cartels (in the first case two companies were from the US, one from Switzerland and two from the UK and in the second case, one company was from Switzerland, one from Japan, and two from the UK).

The first decision was adopted on 14 July 2020 and the two others on 16 May 2019.

Do you operate an immunity and leniency programme? Whom should potential applicants contact? What discounts are available to companies that cooperate with cartel investigations?

Yes, the European Commission operates a leniency programme for cartels. If a company wishes to discuss a potential application under the European Commission’s leniency programme, it can call +32 2 298 41 90 or +32 2 298 41 91 (telephones are monitored from 9am to 5pm on working days (in Brussels)). If a company wants to submit an application, it can do so through the dedicated email address [email protected]. Applications can also be made orally by appointment.

The first company to provide sufficient evidence of a cartel to allow the Commission to pursue the case can receive full immunity from fines. Subsequent companies that bring significant added value to the investigation receive reductions within bands according to the order in which they qualify:

  • second applicant 30 to 50 per cent;
  • third applicant 20 to 30 per cent; and
  • subsequent applicants up to 20 per cent.

The precise reduction within the band is determined by the extent of the added value brought by the company. The grant of immunity or reduction is always subject to the company complying with its duty to fully cooperate with the Commission throughout the investigation. See https://ec.europa.eu/competition-policy/cartels/leniency_en.

In 2017, the Commission launched a new anonymous whistle-blower tool to make it easier for individuals to alert the Commission about secret cartels and other antitrust violations while maintaining their anonymity. The whistle-blower tool is accessible from this website https://ec.europa.eu/competition-policy/cartels/whistleblower_en.

Is there a criminal enforcement track? If so, who is responsible for it? Does the authority conduct criminal investigations and prosecutions for cartel activity? If not, is there another authority in the country that does?

No, not at European level. However, a large number of EU member states have criminal sanctions available (see individual sections).

Are there any plans to reform the competition law?

Ensure that competition rules remain fit for purpose

The Commission took major steps in 2020 to launch important new policy initiatives to ensure that the competition rules remain fit for purpose fully able to deal with challenges. The Commission also engaged with stakeholders to reflect how competition rules could better support the green transition. The Commission further continued to advance on its significant policy review agenda encompassing a large number of its key block exemption regulations, guidelines and notices.

Target anticompetitive conduct in markets relevant to citizens and the Commission’s priorities

In 2020, the Commission’s competition policy actions continued to target anti-competitive conduct and measures in markets that matter for citizens and businesses in the EU, and that are also relevant for the European Commission's overall priorities. DG Competition focused its enforcement action on areas where its interventions are likely to have the biggest impact on the functioning of markets. EU competition policy contributed to the Commission’s key priorities, in particular Europe Fit for the Digital Age, the Green Deal and An Economy that Works for People.

Antitrust

Block Exemption Regulations

The review of several antitrust rules is ongoing in view of their upcoming expiry and in order to ensure that they are up-to-date and provide sufficient guidance to companies. The ongoing evaluation is based on the following criteria: effectiveness, efficiency, relevance, coherence and EU added value. Upon the conclusion of the evaluation process, the Commission will decide on the future regimes applicable to each of the Block Exemption Regulations (BER) mentioned below.

The purposes of the BER are to exempt from the prohibition contained in Article 101(1) of the Treaty those agreements (respectively vertical, on motor vehicle distribution and aftersales, and horizontal (specialisation and research and development)) for which it can be assumed with sufficient certainty that they satisfy the conditions of Article 101(3) of the Treaty.

In October 2018, the Commission launched the review of the rules applicable to vertical agreements contained in Commission Regulation (EU) No. 330/2010 (the VBER), adopted in April 2010 and expiring on 31 May 2022. The accompanying Guidelines on Vertical Restraints which provide guidance on the interpretation of the VBER and Article 101 of the Treaty are part of the review. In September 2021, the evaluation report was published. In December 2020, a public consultation aimed at gathering stakeholder feedback for the revision of the rules was organised, and a further public consultation on the draft revised VBER/Vertical Guidelines was launched in July 2021.

In December 2018, the Commission launched the review of motor vehicle distribution and after-sales agreements contained in Commission Regulation (EU) No. 461/2010 (the Motor Vehicle Block Exemption Regulation), adopted in May 2010 and expiring on 31 May 2023. In 2020 a public consultation aimed at gathering stakeholder feedback was organised, with the publication of the evaluation report in May 2021.

In September 2019, the Commission launched the review of the rules applicable to horizontal cooperation. These include Commission Regulations (EU) No. 1217/2010 (Research & Development Block Exemption Regulation – R&D BER) and No. 1218/2010 (Specialisation Block Exemption Regulation – Specialisation BER), both adopted in December 2010 and expiring on 31 December 2022. The accompanying Commission Guidelines on horizontal cooperation agreements which provide guidance for the interpretation of the Block Exemption Regulations and for the application of article 101 of the Treaty to other horizontal agreements are part of the review. In 2019, a public consultation aimed at gathering stakeholder feedback was organised, with the publication of the evaluation report in May 2021. In July 2021, a public consultation aimed at gathering stakeholder feedback for the revision of the rules was organised, and a further public consultation on the draft revised R&D BER, Specialisation BER and Horizontal Guidelines is scheduled for early 2022.

Consortia Block Exemption Regulation

The Consortia Block Exemption Regulation, Commission Regulation (EU) No. 906/2009 exempts from the prohibition contained in article 101(1) of the Treaty certain types of agreements between maritime shipping companies to cooperate in "consortia" (ie, in the provision of regular and scheduled international maritime shipping services). The Regulation was adopted in 2009 and prolonged in 2014 by five years and was due to expire on 25 April 2020. Following a public consultation in 2018, the Commission has prolonged the validity of the Regulation until 25 April 2024.

Collective bargaining

On 30 June 2020, the Commission announced a new initiative aiming to assess whether there is a need to adopt measures at EU level to ensure that competition law does not stand in the way of collective bargaining by some self-employed who may be in a weak position. The background to this is that labour markets have evolved both in the online and the offline world and some self-employed do not enjoy the independence that normally comes with the self-employed status. As a result, some are faced with deteriorating working conditions.

The Commission published an inception impact assessment in January 2021 and a more detailed open public consultation on the initiative in March 2021.

The Commission plans on publishing for consultation a draft of the guidelines in December 2021, aiming for the adoption of the final text in the second quarter of 2022.

Mergers

The Commission continuously evaluates the substantive and procedural rules that make up the legal framework in force for merger control. Experience, as well as a number of public consultations carried out since the last reform of the EU Merger Regulation in 2004, show that in general the merger rules work well and no fundamental overhaul is needed. Nevertheless, to identify possible areas for improvement, the Commission launched in 2016 an evaluation exercise, including a public consultation, regarding selected procedural and jurisdictional aspects of EU merger control, such as the use of purely turnover-based thresholds and the potential for further simplification of the treatment of certain non-problematic cases. The results of this Evaluation were published in a Staff Working Document in March 2021. Following the results of the evaluation, the Commission decided to adopt a communication providing guidance on the application of the referral mechanism between Member States and the Commission set out in Article 22 of the Merger Regulation, and launch an impact assessment on exploring policy options for further targeting and simplification of merger procedures. As a first step of the impact assessment, the Commission launched a public consultation in March 2021, with a view to gathering further information and seeking views from stakeholders.

Antitrust and mergers – Market definition

On 3 April 2020, the European Commission launched an evaluation of its 1997 Market Definition Notice, which included a public consultation. The purpose of the evaluation was to gather evidence on the functioning of the Market Definition Notice in order to assess whether the Notice is still “fit-for-purpose” in light of developments since its adoption in 1997. Following the evaluation of the Market Definition Notice, the Commission services published a Staff Working Document in July 2021. The document summarises the findings of the Commission services on whether the current Notice pursues relevant objectives, whether it pursues them effectively, efficiently and coherently, and whether it provides EU added value.

The Staff Working Document indicates that the fundamental principles in the current Market Definition Notice are based on the case law of the European Courts and are sound. At the same time, it is important that the competition rules remain fit for a world that is changing fast and is becoming increasingly digital and interconnected. This includes questions such as how to define markets where companies charge zero monetary prices, where companies operate digital platforms or where companies offer complementary products in what are sometimes called “digital ecosystems”, and potentially clarifications related to assessment in conditions of globalisation and import competition.

State aid

A major overhaul of EU State aid rules, known as State Aid Modernisation, has been under way since 2012. Overall, the room for Member States to give state aid in line with clear criteria and without the need for prior authorisation from the Commission has greatly expanded over recent years. The modernisation efforts have led to a more targeted approach, simplified procedures and more opportunities for public investment. In 2018, the Enabling Regulation was revised with a view to allow for a targeted review of the General Block Exemption Regulation. In July 2021, the revision was implemented covering three areas, namely aid for European Territorial Cooperation projects, aid for Seal of Excellence projects and national funding combined with InvestEU money. In addition, on 7 January 2019 the Commission launched, in line with the Commission’s Better Regulation Guidelines, an evaluation of a number of state aid rules. The evaluation took the form of a ‘fitness check’ with the aim of verifying whether the rules were/are still fit for purpose. A Staff Working Document of the Fitness Check was published on 30 October 2020. While state aid rules are broadly fit for purpose, some individual rules will need to be adapted or updated, notably to reflect the recent European Green Deal and the EU's Industrial and Digital Strategies. On that basis, DG COMP will adopt a revision of the Regional Aid Guidelines, the Framework for State Aid for Research and Development and Innovation, the Communication on important projects of common European interest (IPCEI), the Guidelines on state aid to promote risk finance investments, the Guidelines on state aid for climate, environmental protection and energy, and the corresponding provisions of the General Block Exemption Regulation.

The outbreak of covid-19 has had a significant economic impact. DG COMP has made use of the existing flexibility in the Treaty to adopt a Temporary Framework to allow support measures for undertakings affected.

When did the last review of the law occur?

Antitrust

The main substantive antitrust rules are provided by Articles 101 and 102 TFEU, which have in essence remained unchanged since the Treaty of Rome. However, as stated above, the Commission is in the process of reviewing its Horizontal and Vertical Block Exemption Regulations and accompanying Guidelines. As regards procedure, the Commission’s procedural antitrust framework is mainly provided for by Regulation 1/2003 and Regulation 773/2004.

Mergers

The main legislative texts for merger decisions are the EU Merger Regulation and the Implementing Regulation. The Merger Regulation contains the main rules for the assessment of concentrations, whereas the Implementing Regulation concerns procedural issues (such as notification, deadlines and right to be heard). The last legislative reform of the EU Merger Regulation was in 2004. However, as explained in the answer to the previous question, a number of public consultations have been carried out since then. In 2013, the Commission adopted a Simplification Package to further streamline procedures. The current evaluation of specific aspects of the Merger Regulation seeks to explore the possibility for a broader simplification exercise.

State aid

Since 2012, the Commission has modernised the rules to focus State aid control on measures that genuinely affect competition in the EU single market, while simplifying and streamlining rules and procedures. This has reduced the administrative burden and facilitated public investment by empowering Member States to grant public support without prior scrutiny by the Commission. The General Block Exemption Regulation (GBER), which was adopted in June 2014 and further expanded in 2017 and 2021, gives granting authorities much wider margins to design and implement aid measures faster and with reduced administrative burden. The changes brought to the procedural regulation allow the Commission to conduct state aid sector inquiries, which was previously only possible as part of antitrust and merger control. State aid sector inquiries can be launched in situations where state aid measures may distort competition in several Member States, or where existing aid measures are no longer compatible with the regulatory framework.

In January 2019, the Commission launched a ‘fitness check’ to evaluate state aid rules that were adopted as part of the state aid modernisation.

In 2020, in line with the European Green Deal communication, a new EU Emission Trading System (ETS) State aid Guidelines aimed at reducing carbon leakage risk related to indirect ETS costs, and incentivising the modernisation of production processes, were adopted.

In 2021, a review of the main state aid rules is under way as a follow-up to the Fitness Check.

The State Aid Temporary Framework

The State Aid Temporary Framework was adopted on 19th March 2020 to enable Member States to use the full flexibility foreseen under state aid rules to support the economy in the context of the coronavirus outbreak. Since its adoption, the Temporary Framework was amended four times in 2020, and twice in 2021, with a view to supporting those sector of the economy that were most vulnerable to the rules applied across Member States as a result of the pandemic.

Do you have a separate economics team? If so, please give details.

The chief economist of the DG Comp has a team of 29 economists, most with PhDs in industrial organisation. The current chief economist is Pierre Régibeau, who has previously taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Kellogg School of Management (Northwestern University), the Institute for Economic Analysis (Barcelona) and the University of Essex, where he currently is honorary visiting professor.

Has the authority conducted a dawn raid?

Yes, inspections are regularly conducted. The Commission has the power to enter any business premises, examine books and other records, take or obtain copies or extracts, to seal any business premises and to ask for on the spot explanations of facts or documents. The Commission also has the power to conduct searches of private premises.

Has the authority imposed penalties on officers or directors of companies for offences committed by the company? If yes, please provide the most recent instances.

No.

What are the pre-merger notification thresholds, if any, for the buyer and seller involved in a merger?

The Commission has jurisdiction to review transactions that qualify as concentrations within the meaning of the EU Merger Regulation and that have an EU dimension, meaning that the merging firms reach certain turnover thresholds. There are two alternative ways to reach turnover thresholds for an EU dimension. The first way requires:

  • a combined worldwide turnover of all the merging firms over €5,000 million; and
  • an EU-wide turnover for each of at least two of the firms over €250 million.

The second way requires:

  1. a worldwide turnover of all the merging firms over €2,500 million;
  2. a combined turnover of all the merging firms over €100 million in at least three member states;
  3. a turnover of over €25 million for each of at least two of the firms in each of the three member states included under (ii); and
  4. EU-wide turnover of each of at least two firms of more than €100 million.

However, even if these turnover thresholds are met, the transaction will not be notifiable to the European Commission if each of the parties to the transaction achieves more than two-thirds of their EEA turnover within one and the same member state. The transaction will be notifiable instead to the competition authority of that country.

Mergers that do not have an EU dimension may fall instead under the remit of Member States’ competition authorities. There is a referral mechanism in place that allows the Member States and the Commission to transfer cases to each other, both at the request of the companies involved and of the Member States. This allows companies to benefit from a one-stop-shop review and to allocate cases to the most appropriate authority.

Are there any restrictions on investments that involve less than a majority stake in the business?

The acquisition of minority stakes may constitute notifiable concentrations under the EU Merger Regulation when those stakes confer control over the target to the acquiring companies. Conversely, acquisitions of non-controlling minority shareholdings (that is, transactions that do not bring about an acquisition of control) do not fall under the scope of application of the EU Merger Regulation.

The Commission published in 2014 a White Paper ‘Towards more effective merger control’, which contained a proposal to introduce a system for the review of certain categories of non-controlling minority shareholdings that may be problematic from a competition point of view. However, the results of the public consultation on the White Paper indicated concerns on the proportionality of this measure. The DG Comp, therefore, published a follow-up study in October 2016, which gathers additional information from the point of view of both competition and corporate law and practice in different jurisdictions.


EU: from the enforcer's competition economists

Address: Place Madou/Madouplein 1, 1210 Saint-Josse-ten-Noode, Belgium
Tel: +32 2 295 00 91
Fax: +32 2 296 12 82
Web: https://ec.europa.eu/competition-policy/chief-competition-economist_en

Contacts

Pierre Régibeau
Chief Competition Economist
Tel: +32 2 299 58 37

Svend Albaek
Adviser

Claes Bengtsson
Head of Unit, Economic Analysis in Merger, Antitrust and State aid cases

Lluis Sauri Romero
Head of Unit, Empirical analysis in complex merger and antitrust cases

Valeria Granata
Assistant to the Chief Economist

Vasiliki Mastrantoni
Assistant to the Chief economist Team

Questions and answers

How many economists do you employ? How many have PhDs in Industrial Organisation?

There are approximately 150 economists in DG Competition.

How are these economists distributed within the organisation? Do you have a separate economics unit, or ‘bureau’?

The chief economist at DG Competition has a team of around 29 economists, most with a PhD in industrial organisation. The other economists work as case handlers (or managers) in other directorates and units.

Do you have a chief economist?

As of 16 September 2019, our chief economist is Pierre Régibeau. He has previously taught at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Kellogg School of management (Northwestern University), the Institute for Economic Analysis (Barcelona) and the University of Essex, where he currently is honorary visiting professor.

To whom does the chief economist report?

The chief economist reports on matters of substance to the commissioner for competition and on staff matters to the director general.

Does the chief economist have the power to hire his or her own staff?

Yes, in agreement with the director general.

Are members of the separate economics unit seconded to case teams or is the unit kept separate? If so, what role does it play?

The unit of the chief economist is usually kept separate. In selected cases involving complex economic issues, a staff member may be seconded to the case teams.

To what degree is the economics unit called on to be a ‘second pair of eyes’ during cases – is it one of the agency’s ‘checks and balances’?

The chief economist advises the director general and the commissioner for competition on all major cases and policy issues. In major cases, he may also give final formal advice, which is made available to all commissioners of the European Commission. The chief economist is therefore part of the Commission’s key ‘checks and balances’.

In addition to having or not having a unit, does the agency include a specialist economist on every case team? If not, why?

For all cases requiring economic analysis (ie, the majority of important non-cartel cases) the Commission tries to include an economist in the case team; however, not all cases and policy issues require in-depth economic analysis.

How much economics work is outsourced? Of this outsourcing, what percentage is specific to particular cases, and what percentage is part of general research and development?

Most of the outsourcing is concerned with general research (ie, studies on economic issues related to competition policy). In the past, some economic work has been outsourced in selected cases, but with the current size of the chief economist team, it now happens very rarely.

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