ZWeR 2018, 1

RWS Verlag Kommunikationsforum GmbH, Köln RWS Verlag Kommunikationsforum GmbH, Köln 2199-1723 Zeitschrift für Wettbewerbsrecht ZWeR 2018 AufsätzeStefan Thomas* / Manuel Dueñas**

The draft provisions on antitrust fines in the Commission’s ECN+ Proposal

On 22 March 2017, the Commission released its Proposal for a directive to empower the competition authorities of the Member States to be more effective enforcers (COM(2017) 142 final). With this effort to harmonise national public enforcement regimes, the Commission enters uncharted territory. Effectiveness is deemed to be fostered by the introduction of the economic entity doctrine as a unitary sanctioning concept throughout the Member States. As a complementing measure, the Proposal prescribes a more coherent standard for leniency in the European Competition Network. The present article ventures to evaluate these remedies. A preliminary hypothesis is that the Commission’s conviction of the economic entity doctrine to become the gold standard for antitrust enforcement is possibly based on tenuous ideas of effectiveness. Moreover, the introduction of a 10 % fine cap for any National Competition Authority irrespective of the size of the Member State can lead to highly disparate relative fining powers throughout the internal market. As to the leniency aspect, the present article will attempt to assess whether the Proposal taps the full potential for enhancement. As an alternative to the Commission’s suggestions the article elaborates on a one-stop-shop leniency principle. Such would go beyond the current Proposal in that it would render multiple leniency filings obsolete within the EU.


  • I. Introduction
  • II. Economic entity doctrine
    • 1. The proposed legislation
    • 2. Appropriateness of the economic entity doctrine as a compulsory EU-wide standard
      • 2.1 Unresolved legal flaws of the economic entity doctrine
      • 2.2 The effectiveness allegation
      • 2.3 Economic inefficiency of high fines
      • 2.4 Inequality in relative sanctioning powers created by a unitary 10 %-cap
    • 3. Legal uncertainty as to the definition of an economic entity according to the Proposal
      • 3.1 The problem
      • 3.2 Uncertainties as to the scope of the economic entity doctrine
        • 3.2.1 The limitation on “parent companies” in Article 12(3) ECN+
        • 3.2.2 Inconsistency between Article 12(3) and 14(1) ECN+
        • 3.2.3 Legislative restraints under national constitutional law
      • 3.3 Conclusion
  • III. Harmonisation of leniency programmes
    • 1. The proposed legislation
    • 2. Evaluation
      • 2.1 Alternative approach: One-stop-principle
      • 2.2 Alternative approach: Challenges arising in a one-stop-shop-system
        • 2.2.1 Idiosyncrasies of national enforcement systems
        • 2.2.2 Attribution of knowledge
  • IV. Final remarks
Professor of Law, Holder of the Chair of Private Law, Business Law, Competition and Insurance Law, Faculty of Law of the Eberhard Karls University, Tübingen. Email:
Research Assistant, Faculty of Law of the Eberhard Karls University, Tübingen.

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