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Policy Brief

Commitments or prohibition? The EU antitrust dilemma

Commitments have a cost: commitments are voluntary and are unlikely to be subject to judicial review. This reduces the European Commission’s incentive to build a robust case. Because commitment decisions do not establish any legal precedent, they provide for little guidance on the interpretation of the law.

By: Date: January 31, 2014 Topic: Innovation & Competition Policy

The issue: Excluding cartels, most investigations into suspected infringements of European Union competition law are resolved with ‘commitment decisions’. The European Commission drops the case in exchange for a commitment from the company under investigation to implement measures to stop the presumed anti-competitive behaviour. Commitment decisions are considered speedier than formal sanctions (prohibition decisions) in restoring normal competitive market conditions. They have a cost, however: commitments are voluntary and are unlikely to be subject to judicial review. This reduces the European Commission’s incentive to build a robust case. Because commitment decisions do not establish any legal precedent, they provide for little guidance on the interpretation of the law.

Policy challenge: The European Commission relies increasingly on commitment decisions. More transparency on the substance of allegations, and the establishment of a higher number of legal precedents, are however necessary. This applies in particular to cases that tackle antitrust issues in new areas, such as markets for digital goods, in which companies might find it difficult to assess if a certain behaviour constitutes a violation of competition rules. To ensure greater transparency and mitigate some of the drawbacks of commitment decisions, while retaining their main benefits, the full detail of the objections addressed by the European Commission to defendants should be published.

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Upcoming Event

Sep
3
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Academic lecture: International technology competition

Bruegel Annual Meetings, Day 3 - On the final day of the Annual Meetings, our Director Guntram Wolf sits with Keyu Jin to discuss international competition policy.

Speakers: Keyu Jin, J. Scott Marcus and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: Innovation & Competition Policy Location: Palais des Académies, Rue Ducale 1, Brussels
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Working Paper

Stability of collusion and quality differentiation: a Nash bargaining approach

How do incentives to collude depend on how asymmetric firms are? For low levels of differentiation, an increase in quality difference makes collusion less stable. The opposite holds for high levels of differentiation.

By: Thanos Athanasopoulos, Burak Dindaroglu and Georgios Petropoulos Topic: Innovation & Competition Policy Date: June 15, 2021
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Podcast

Podcast

New kid in the playground: China's antitrust push

How is China’s antitrust push being weaponised to counter western sanctions?

By: The Sound of Economics Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: May 12, 2021
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Working Paper

Research and innovation policies and productivity growth

Can research and innovation policies power growth? The answer currently can only be a timid yes. Too little is known of what drives the actual effects of R&I policies.

By: Reinhilde Veugelers Topic: Innovation & Competition Policy Date: May 10, 2021
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Past Event

Past Event

Declining competition: a transatlantic challenge

Join us for a discussion of transatlantic competition with Kristalina Georgieva, Margrethe Vestager and Amy Klobuchar among others.

Speakers: Romain Duval, Kristalina Georgieva, Greg Ip, Amy Klobuchar, Nancy Rose, Tommaso Valletti, Margrethe Vestager, David Wessel and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: Innovation & Competition Policy Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: March 15, 2021
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Blog Post

Europe is losing competitiveness in global value chains while China surges

The European Union owes much of its economic weight to its regional value chain and integration into the global value chain. But the EU’s global value chain role is shrinking, and while EU trade integration with China is increasing, it is mainly to China’s benefit, undermining the EU’s external competitiveness.

By: Alicia García-Herrero and David Martínez Turégano Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: November 27, 2020
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Past Event

Past Event

Digital Platforms, Regulation and Competition: What's next for Europe?

Will the new rules of the internet go far enough for consumers and creators? Should we regulate platforms or will a code of conduct suffice?

Speakers: Diane Coyle, Jorge Padilla, Georgios Petropoulos and Alex A. Saliba Topic: Innovation & Competition Policy Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: November 26, 2020
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Working Paper

Digital platforms and antitrust

The market power of online platforms raises concerns that they may engage in anti-competitive practices, but traditional (ex-post) antitrust intervention will be less effective in markets driven by network effects unless it is combined with a proper (ex-ante) regulatory framework. Intervention should not reduce value creation, should focus on fair sharing of value, and should eliminate incentives for anti-competitive strategies.

By: Geoffrey Parker, Georgios Petropoulos and Marshall Van Alstyne Topic: Innovation & Competition Policy Date: November 23, 2020
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Past Event

Past Event

How to keep a competitive environment while engaging with non market economies?

How can we ensure fair competition between European firms and Chinese state-backed players?

Speakers: Julia Anderson, Helge Berger, Michiel Boots, Alicia García-Herrero, Carles Esteva Mosso, Frédéric Jenny, Georgios Petropoulos, Cian Ruane, Hylke Vandenbussche and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: Innovation & Competition Policy Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: November 19, 2020
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Blog Post

Not all foreign investment is welcome in Europe

A new plan to tackle foreign subsidies would empower the European Commission to investigate foreign investments in the European Union, with Chinese investment particularly in the spotlight. This increased scrutiny could deter some investors. Overall however, fairer competition is worth some lost opportunities.

By: Julia Anderson Topic: Global Economics & Governance Date: November 10, 2020
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Past Event

Past Event

The Sound of Economics Live - The Brussels effect: How the European Union rules the world

This was a live recording of an episode of the Sound of Economics, Bruegel's podcast series. The discussion centered around the book of Anu Bradford, The Brussels Effect.

Speakers: Anu Bradford, Ashoka Mody, Giuseppe Porcaro and Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance Location: Bruegel, Rue de la Charité 33, 1210 Brussels Date: March 3, 2020
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Opinion

Europe may be the world’s AI referee, but referees don’t win

The EU needs to invest in homegrown technology.

By: Guntram B. Wolff Topic: European Macroeconomics & Governance, Innovation & Competition Policy Date: February 19, 2020
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