The European Commission and the competition authorities of the EU member states have, since 2004, formed a network called the European Competition Network, ECN. The main aim of the ECN network is to ensure the efficient and uniform application of Articles 101 and 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) in the internal market.
The ECN network was founded on 1 May 2004, at a time when other major changes occurred in the application of the EU competition rules. Competent national authorities and courts were then entrusted with full powers, next to the Commission, to apply the EU competition rules.
The EU competition rules are applied to a competition restraint felt within the EU region if the restraint may significantly affect trade between the member states (the trade criterion).
- Article Reforms of EU competition rules in 2010 (FCA Yearbook 2011)
- Report on the functioning of Regulation 1/2003
Cooperation in case-handling
The ECN members inform each other of all cases to which Articles 101 and 102 TFEU shall be applied – either prior to commencing the first official investigatory proceeding or immediately following it.
Where necessary, the ECN members may coordinate among themselves which is the authority best suited to handle a case which has been brought up within the sphere of the network. Thus, the FCCA may also be referred a case which has been instituted at the Commission or some other member state.
The member states also have a duty to inform the Commission of certain decisions involving competition restraints a minimum of 30 days prior to issuing the decision.
Where necessary, the network members assist each other in the investigation of competition restraints violating the EU competition rules. The authorities may for example provide each other with information needed in the investigatory work and carry out inspections at the request of another authority.
The material obtained through the inspections, confidential information included, may be further delivered to a network member who has requested the inspection, and the material may be used as evidence when the case is processed.
However, the information obtained from another competition authority may only be used for the purpose to which it has been accumulated. The ECN members are also bound by confidentiality regarding the information exchanged within the network.
At the request of another ECN member, the FCCA has carried out company inspections in Finland and obtained help from other members in cases where the necessary material has been situated outside the Finnish borders.
Working group and other cooperation
The ECN members meet each other regularly in so-called general meetings and the meetings of sectoral and other working groups. In addition, the heads of the member states' competition authorities convene annually.
The sectoral working groups include the food, energy, transport, pharmaceuticals, financial services, telecom and environment working groups. In their meetings, the groups discuss competition problems detected in the various countries and the solutions which have been reached in the different cases.
The ECN network has also launched a Model Leniency Programme. The aim of the Model Programme is to prevent cases in which the different systems of the member states would discourage the companies considering a leniency application from submitting it.
The state of convergence with the Model Programme has been assessed in a ECN Convergence Report published by the ECN network in October 2009.
- ECN Model leniency programme
- Report on Assessment on the state of convergence
- ECN Working group report on convergence of national competition laws
The information sources regarding the ECN network
The newsletter of the network, the ECN Brief, was published for the first time in January 2010. The newsletter which comes out five times a year e.g. includes information on the decisions made by the Commission and the national competition authorities in competition restraints cases, the decisions of the courts, regulatory reform, sectoral reviews and other current events.
- Order the newsletter from here
A common ECN portal can be found on the European Commission’s Internet pages on competition. It offers information on the application of EU competition rules in the member states. The pages contain all the links to the ECN members’ websites and their news and annual reports.
- Commission Notice on cooperation within the Network of Competition Authorities
- Joint statement of the Council and the Commission on the functioning of the network of competition authorities
last modified 12/28/2012