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Who Does What in Competition Law: Harmonizing the Rules on Damages for Infringements of the EU Competition Rules?

Caroline Cauffman and Niels J. Philipsen, Maastricht European Private Law Institute Working Paper No. 2014/19, 2014

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After a long preparatory process, a Directive harmonizing certain national rules on private enforcement of competition law has been adopted by the European Parliament. In this contribution it is investigated whether harmonization of these rules was desirable and whether the main objectives of the directive, the improvement of the possibilities for victims to obtain damages and of the interaction between public and private competition, are likely to be achieved. With regard to the aim of increasing the possibilities for victims of antitrust infringements to obtain compensation, we can conclude that the Directive indeed increases this possibility, although various obstacles to private action are likely to remain. This includes obstacles in relation to (lacking) possibilities for collective action, the requirement to prove negligence or intent, and rules on disclosure of evidence. With regard to the interaction of public and private enforcement of competition law a crucial issue is finding the right balance between using the leniency program (which the European Commission needs in order to be able to effectively trace cartels) in the public enforcement of competition law and compensating victims via enforcement of private law. Whether the Directive has chosen the most desirable option to achieve this balance is debatable.

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