There are three main branches of European Union competition policy: antitrust, cartels and merger control. The European Commission (EC) enforces the competition rules through its powers of investigation and sanction. Competition cases can be taken to the General Court with appeals heard by the Court of Justice.
In 2012, the Court confirmed that there was restricted competition on consumer credit card and natural gas markets. The EC either started or concluded investigations on a range of important markets such as passenger airlines, e-books, mobile device producers, pharmaceuticals and telecommunications.
Cartel decisions taken included the record high fine imposed on producers of cathode ray tubes. The EC noted increased use of settlement procedure and immunity and leniency provisions as well as a growing number of applications for reductions of fines due to inability to pay. “Abuse of dominant position” investigations addressed a number of network industries as well as the high-tech sector. One merger in the European financial derivatives market was blocked.
Stakeholders believe that the ongoing crisis has not weakened the enforcement of competition policy. New developments suggested by the EP and researchers include the development of a framework for private enforcement of the competition rules.