The Commission is considering granting national competition authorities (“NCAs”) additional powers in order to effectively enforce EU competition rules.

Thanks to Regulation 1/2003, NCAs and national courts were given the possibility to participate in the prosecution of cartels and abuses of dominant position (Articles 101 and 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (“TFEU”), respectively). However, Regulation 1/2003 did not fully address the scope of the tools necessary for the effective application of EU competition rules and it appears that some NCAs are experiencing difficulties when enforcing Articles 101 and 102 TFEU, for example when collecting digitally stored evidence or imposing effective fines.

The Commission launched a public consultation in November 2015 regarding the strengthening of the NCAs’ enforcement powers. The Commission sought the views of stakeholders on a number of issues: the tools that NCAs need in order to timely detect and sanction violations of EU competition rules, effective national leniency programs, independence of NCAs, as well as resources and staff needed.

In September 2016, the EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager indicated that there was “a strong case for new EU rules as part of the answer.” She also noted that “each authority has its own national traditions. So the best type of legislation may be a directive, not a regulation.” Contrary to EU regulations which are directly binding on Member States’ legal systems, a directive is a softer legislative tool which requires transposition at national level.

The Commission is currently conducting an impact assessment on whether to strengthen NCAs’ enforcement powers. Should such assessment reveal that legislative action is necessary, a Commission’s proposal could be expected early next year. A recently published Commission’s roadmap for 2017 also confirms that “[p]roposals will be made to further empower National Competition Authorities to be more effective enforcers of rules that guarantee a competitive environment in the Single Market.”