A draft EU legislative act was revealed last week that would allow victims of antitrust violations to bring private lawsuits in the courts of European nations. It would provide a vehicle for consumers and companies to recover their actual losses and lost profits. The proposal is reported to also include a class action mechanism that would be available to state bodies or government-appointed nonprofits. The European Commission will reportedly consider the proposal in the coming weeks.

Private antitrust suits are common in the United States, and U.S. antitrust law provides for recovery of treble damages by private parties injured by antitrust violations. In addition, class actions are broadly available to victims under U.S. law. In contrast, antitrust enforcement in Europe has been largely the province of government agencies, with only a few countries permitting private actions. However, in the near future that could change. Companies with sales or operations in Europe should be aware that private damages actions (including class actions) for violations of EC competition rules may emerge as a more significant competition law risk in Europe.