Effective private enforcement of EU competition law : A justification for legislative harmonization of national procedural rules?
In the strive towards a highly competitive market, the European Commission has long promoted an extensive use of so-called private enforcement, where individuals claim their rights, as guaranteed by the acquis communautaire, before national courts. The incentive to litigate is, mostly, the right to receive damages for loss suffered due to another private party’s violation of the EU antitrust rules, established by the CJEU in its famous ruling in Courage, in 2001.
Lately, the Commission seems to believe that the aim of a more effective private enforcement of antitrust law justifies rather extensive intrusions into the internal legal systems of the Member States. In a White Paper of 2008, the Commission proposed several measures aimed at enhancing the possibilities for individuals to be awarded with compensation for having suffered from a breach of the antitrust rules. These measures include the harmonization of certain national procedural laws, to facilitate inter alia damages claims at a national level. One year later, in 2009, an internal document with a draft for a directive was leaked out from the Commission, which suggests that there are advanced plans for issuing a harmonizing legislation.
Extensive critique has been aimed at the Commission’s proposal, mainly on the basis that procedural rules should be left unaltered by the European Union. Procedural rules are often considered to be the result of careful considerations of specific domestic characteristics and problems, which over time have resulted in a well-balanced internal system based on legal traditions and culture. Even though national rules would still apply in purely domestic situations, it is said that the internal balance of the national procedural systems would be undermined if certain procedural rules were to be harmonized throughout the Union.
This thesis aims at analysing whether the aim of an effective private enforcement of Union competition law does justify a harmonization of procedural rules that could facilitate inter alia private damage claims before national courts. In the case of a confirmative answer, the work also aims at answering to the question of what form such a harmonization should take: should the Commission initiate a legislative process or should it be left to the CJEU to continue developing the state of law through sporadic rulings on the matter? Recourse is made throughout the work to several important general principles of Union law, such as the principles of national procedural autonomy, subsidiarity, and equality.
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