Last week, ARTICLE 19, the Balanced Economy Project, Privacy International and SOMO submitted their views to the European Commission’s consultation on the EU antitrust procedural rules. The consultation focuses primarily on how the antitrust enforcement procedures could be improved. We believe that increasing the participation of stakeholders, particularly civil society organisations and consumer associations, is key to making “the markets work for people”.
We welcome the European Commission’s initiative to review its Procedural Regulations to ensure they reflect the new market dynamics and developments. Due to the digitisation of the economy, the role of consumers, that is people, in the market has changed and has shown the need to create space for them to bring their perspectives to the table.
There is a need to shift the discussion surrounding competition rules back to its original function of dispersing economic power and serving as a guarantee for a democratic system instead of it being a closed-off discussion among “elites”. Our submission highlights new courses of enforcement that would bring competition rules back to their original functions. To achieve this, the debates on competition law and policy need to be opened and broadened to include civil society organisations (CSOs). Furthermore, more CSO participation would improve the European Commission’s decision-making and enforcement processes, as civil society organisations can bring new perspectives, information and evidence.
In order to make engagement with CSOs and other relevant stakeholders more effective and efficient in practice, we suggest that the European Commission considers making the following changes to the Procedural Regulations:
- The concept of “legitimate interest” included in the Procedural Regulations should be interpreted more broadly. This would allow for a broad variety of interests to be heard and would increase dialogue between, and the participation of, a wide range of stakeholders in the enforcement of competition rules. A broad interpretation would also increase the accountability and legitimacy of such enforcement.
- The concept of “sufficient interest” should be extended. Regulation 773/2004 recurs to a presumption when it comes to the existence of consumers’ “sufficient interest”. We believe that adequate presumptions should be shaped with regards to civil society organisations as that would facilitate their participation in the enforcement proceedings.
- The European Commission should review its priority setting as part of the broader process of allowing stakeholders’ participation in the enforcement of competition rules. Indeed, priority-setting can have a substantial impact on how all stakeholders can engage in the enforcement of competition rules.