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New Directions in Competition Law Enforcement

4th Radboud Economic Law Symposium

24 May 2019

Faculty of Law, Radboud University Nijmegen


General Information

Following the ECN Plus public consultation on public enforcement of the EU antitrust rules, Directive 2019/1 on the empowerment of national competition authorities is argued to further strengthen NCAs in their task of combatting anti-competitive behaviour. It contains various institutional, investigative, decision-making and sanctioning powers and guarantees for NCAs, which should be implemented by the Member States in their national laws. For some Member States this would require great changes, whereas the NCAs of some other Member States are already equipped with such enforcement tools. The Directive nevertheless still leaves some unresolved issues. For example, no compulsory case allocation regime is introduced in this Directive, despite the fact that strengthening the enforcement powers of NCAs is prone to create more trust between NCAs, that anti-competitive behaviour will be adequately tackled by other NCAs. Bringing case allocation within the ambit of hard law would therefore not be a strange idea and could even present a welcome addition in EU competition law. Another unresolved issue deals with the range of decisions which can be taken by NCAs. The EU legislator has decided not to provide NCAs with the possibility to take inapplicability / negative decisions. This could have been a viable option to streamline the enforcement of the EU competition law rules, especially in the context of the NCAs’ further empowerment exercise. Questions can therefore be raised regarding the Directive’s true added value and also its missed opportunities.

Furthermore, in the recent past the Commission and the NCAs have also faced, and will likely continue to face in the future, new types of enforcement challenges. Applying the substantive competition law rules in the new digital era has proven to be challenging, but not entirely impossible, as shown by the recent Commission decisions concerning Google. Nevertheless, the question may be raised whether the competition authorities’ current investigative powers are sufficient to timely detect anti-competitive behaviour stemming from novel approaches to performing business in fast-changing digital markets. In other words, is the competition enforcement ‘toolbox’ entirely ‘future-proof’?

Directive 2019/1 intends to solve some problems which NCAs might encounter under domestic law when enforcing the EU competition law rules. Yet, to make competition law enforcement in the EU ‘future-proof’, more consistent effort seems to be required, not only at EU level, but also throughout the domestic jurisdictions. In 2004, Regulation 1/2003 entered into force and one of its main objectives was to boost decentralised enforcement of the competition rules. Is this objective achieved and which problems do NCAs encounter when applying the Treaty provisions on competition to domestic cases? Does the interaction between the EU and national competition law systems give rise to problems? Best-practices of NCAs, and in this context, learning from those domestic authorities that have been successful in enforcing the competition law provisions, in an EU enforcement ambit often characterised by fragmentation, also provide valuable alternatives for enhancing competition law enforcement in the future. Comparative law analysis remains thus more relevant than ever.

In this context, the 4th Radboud Economic Law Symposium, organised by the Faculty of Law, Radboud University Nijmegen on 24 May 2019, aims to provide a forum where competition law enforcers, judges, academics, practitioners, etc. debate such important questions and exchange ideas on new directions in competition law enforcement. This one-day symposium will feature keynote speeches by:

  • Barry Rodger, Strathclyde University, Scotland;
  • Jacques Steenbergen, President of the Belgian Competition Authority.

The papers accepted for presentation during the symposium will be discussed in detail by Hans Vedder, Professor of Economic Law, University of Groningen and Johan van de Gronden, Professor of European Law, Vice-Dean of the Faculty of Law, Radboud University, and Judge at the Dutch Council of State.

Call for Papers

We invite interested parties, practitioners, or members of the academic community to submit proposals for papers for this International Symposium. More information on the call for papers may be found by clicking here or on the link on the left panel in the menu.

Registration and Payment

More information on registration, payment and the NOVA points to be awarded for participating in this symposium is available by clicking here or on the link on the left panel in the menu.