It has been reported that on 18 March 2014, the EU’s three main institutions provisionally agreed on draft legislation aimed at helping the victims of price-fixing sue for damages.  The European institutions are yet to make an official statement or report on this latest development.
The agreement on the final wording of the legislation was apparently reached at a meeting between representatives of the European Commission, members of the European Parliament and the Greek Ambassador representing EU member states.
The new legislation was originally proposed by the European Commission in June 2013, with the aim of facilitating claims for compensation by victims of competition law infringements and removing the obstacles to such claims faced by claimants in some Member States. For further information on the original proposals, read our briefing here.
The proposals were controversial, with some member states vocally opposed to the idea that judges in one EU member state might be bound by a cartel decision from another member state, and widespread concern in relation to the proposal that information provided by a whistleblower under a leniency regime might be disclosed to a damages claimant.
The compromise wording agreed on 18 March is understood to provide that:
- There will be a “black list” of whistleblower information that cannot be disclosed, with a mechanism whereby a judge can review documents to confirm that they should fall within the “black list”.
- A foreign cartel decision will be regarded as evidence of an infringement, but will not bind a judge.
The full assembly of the European Parliament is expected to sign off on the new law next month. If there are any disagreements on certain parts of the draft legislation, then a plenary session could be called to vote on such parts.
The progress made on the legislation, in the face of some strong opposition and serious concerns being voiced, indicates the will of the EU lawmakers to push through these reforms.
The creation of a “black list” to prevent disclosure of whistleblower evidence is an important protection for whistleblowers and also reflects the importance attached to the role played by such evidence in cartel enforcement. The effectiveness of this protection will of course depend on what is included on the black list.