Detailed explanations concerning how the Commission antitrust procedures work in practice have been published by the Commission's Directorate General for Competition (“DG Competition”) and the Hearing Officers on the Europa website in order to further enhance the transparency and the predictability of Commission antitrust proceedings. The explanations are outlined in three documents, namely Best Practices for antitrust proceedings, Best Practices for the submission of economic evidence (both in antitrust and merger proceedings) and Guidance on the role of the Hearing Officers in the context of antitrust proceedings. The documents will make it easier for companies under investigation to understand how the investigation will proceed, what they can expect from the Commission and what the Commission will expect from them. They have been applied by the Commission provisionally from 6 January 2010, but stakeholders have been given 8 weeks in which to submit comments on the documents with a view to the documents being adjusted in the light of comments from interested parties.
Best Practices in antitrust proceedings
The aim of the Best Practices is to further improve procedures by enhancing transparency, while at the same time ensuring the efficiency of the Commission's investigations. Important areas where the Commission will be amending its procedures include:
- earlier opening of formal proceedings, as soon as the initial assessment phase has been concluded,
- offering state of play meetings to the parties at key points of the proceedings,
- disclosing key submissions, including giving early access to the complaint, so that parties can already express their views in the investigative phase,
- publicly announcing the opening and closure of procedures, as well as when Statement of Objections have been sent, and
- providing guidance on how the new instrument of commitment procedures is used in practice.
Hearing Officers' Guidance Paper
Hearing Officers are the independent guardians of the rights of defence and other procedural rights of companies involved in competition proceedings. The aim of the Guidance is to make their role more transparent.
Best Practices on submission of economic evidence
Considering the increasing importance of economics in complex cases, the Commission's competition department often makes requests for information asking for substantial economic data (for example used in econometric analysis) during its investigations. Parties also often submit arguments based on complex economic theories on their own initiative. In order to streamline the submission of such economic evidence, the Best Practices on economic evidence outline the criteria which these submissions should fulfil.
IP/10/2 – 6 January 2010