The European Commission, the enforcer of EU competition rules, has generally made good use of its powers in antitrust proceedings and merger control, and addressed competition concerns with its decisions. But according to a new report by the European Court of Auditors (ECA) published today, it has not yet fully addressed the complex new enforcement challenges in digital markets, the ever-increasing amount of data to be analysed or the limitations of existing enforcement tools. The auditors also found that the Commission has limited capacity to monitor markets, proactively detect antitrust infringements and check the accuracy of merger information.
EU competition rules are aimed at preventing companies from indulging in anticompetitive practices such as secret cartels, or abusing a dominant position. The Commission can impose fines on companies that infringe these rules. In the last 10 years, competition enforcement has had to come to terms with significant changes in market dynamics due to the emergence of digital markets, big data and price-fixing algorithms. The auditors examined whether the Commission had properly enforced the rules in merger control and antitrust proceedings. They assessed how effectively the Commission had been able to detect and investigate infringements, and how well it had cooperated with national competition authorities (NCAs).
“In the last decade, the Commission has been using its powers in merger control and antitrust proceedings effectively,” said Alex Brenninkmeijer, the ECA Member responsible for the report. “But it now needs to scale up market oversight to be fit for a more global and digital world. It needs to get better at proactively detecting infringements and select its investigations more judiciously. Together with stronger cooperation from NCAs, this will result in better competition enforcement in the EU internal market, protecting businesses and consumers.”
Press Release: European Commission needs to scale up antitrust and merger control to fit a more globalised world