In March, the Commission published several documents containing practical information related to antitrust procedures:

  • The Informal Guidance Paper on how to claim confidentiality for information contained in the submissions/documents obtained by the Commission in the course of an investigation. The guidance paper outlines Do’s and Don’ts for undertakings when indicating business secrets and other confidential information in submissions and/or documents held on the Commission’s file. The Guidance paper provides examples of what may constitute business secrets and other confidential information and also, the types of information that the Commission will not consider to merit confidential treatment. Also, the Guidance indicates layout and presentation requirements when submitting confidentiality claims.
  • The Commission published on its website a public version of its Antitrust ManProc. The publication of this manual follows a complaint lodged before the European Ombudsman. In 2011, the European Ombudsman accepted that the Commission had been entitled to refuse access to certain parts of the internal manual on the grounds that disclosure would reveal its investigatory strategy and so undermine the purpose of investigations and its decision-making process. However, the European Ombudsman made the preliminary finding that the Commission had failed properly to handle the complainant's request for access to the Antitrust ManProc, and that such failure amounted to an instance of maladministration. In response to the Ombudsman's recommendation for a friendly solution, the Commission has been working on producing a publicly disclosable version of DG Competition's internal procedural manual. The public version of the manual is divided in 28 chapters. Each of them provides explanations on the application of the competition provisions contains in Regulation No 1/2003, Regulation No 773/2004 and other Commission’s notice and guidelines. They cover topics such as the application of the leniency notice, access to the file and confidentiality or the request for obtaining a guidance letter. Nevertheless, the Commission did not enclose a chapter on surprise inspections in the premises of the undertakings. The notice of the manual emphasises that this practical guidance has not been adopted by the Commission and it constitutes a working tool that evolves on a regular basis through new case experiences. Therefore, updates to the modules will be made public at regular intervals. Also, the notice makes clear that the manual is a purely internal guidance to staff, it does not contain binding instructions for staff and the procedures can be adapted to the circumstances of the case.