The Single Economic Entity Doctrine: Is There a Common Concept of Undertaking in EU Competition Law?
Abstract: The addressees of EU competition rules are designated as undertakings. EU antitrust and merger rules apply only where an entity constitutes an undertaking. The notion of undertaking is not defined in the Treaties, rather it is developed in the case-law of the Court of Justice of the European Union and the decisional practice of the European Commission. An undertaking is defined as any entity engaged in an economic activity, regardless of its legal status and the way in which it is financed. A functional approach is adopted in order to distinguish entities acting as undertakings from those that are not. Further, it is established that the concept of undertaking designates an economic unit, which can include several natural or legal persons. In other words, several persons comprising of a single economic entity form a single undertaking for the application of competition rules. The single economic entity doctrine has been attributed various purposes in order to address different issues in competition law, and therefore it has far-reaching consequences. In this thesis, the concept of undertaking and the functional approach ascribed to the definition, its boundaries, which is delineated with the single economic entity doctrine is analysed in the context of substantive reach of Article 101 TFEU, attribution of liability for the infringement of antitrust rules, defining the group of an undertaking within the meaning of EUMR and establishing extra-territorial jurisdiction of competition rules with an aim to examine whether the concept and its principles are applied the same. It is seen not only that the single economic entity doctrine has been applied inconsistently, but also that it is problematic and an inappropriate instrument to be used in some areas.
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