EU to Help Businesses and Consumers Sue for Antitrust Damages

The European Commission (EC) said that it intends to make it easier in future for EU citizens and enterprises to sue companies for damages, where they are found to have rigged prices or breached other EU antitrust rules.

Although affected parties already have such a right, the Commission said its proposal would “remove a number of practical difficulties … victims frequently face when they try to receive a fair compensation for the damage they have suffered.”

“Infringements of the antitrust rules cause serious harm to European consumers and businesses,” commented EU competition commissioner, Joaquin Almunia, in a statement. “We must ensure that all victims of these infringements can obtain redress for the harm they suffered.”

The proposal would involve member state courts being given the power to order companies to disclose evidence when victims claim compensation, while private settlements would be made easier. The Commission also provided guidelines on how to quantify antitrust harm, which it described as an “often costly and difficult” process.

Over the past seven years, individuals or companies hurt by anti-competitive behaviour have sued for damages in only 25% of cases, it noted. As legislation varies across the EU “the chances of victims to obtain compensation greatly depend on which member state they happen to live in,” a statement noted.

The Commission has also proposed that member states set up “collective redress mechanisms in order to improve access to justice for victims of violations of EU law in general, including competition rules.” The proposal will now be put to the 27 EU member states and the European Parliament for approval, with implementation to take two years after that.

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