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The Antitrust Revolution in Europe

Exploring the European Commission’s Cartel Policy

Lee McGowan

This insightful and original book considers the evolution, aims and developments of EU antitrust policy, and focuses on the way in which the European Commission has sought to combat cartels.
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Chapter 7: The Decussis Mirabilis and the Antitrust Revolution in Europe, 1999 to the Present

Lee McGowan


If the narrative of EU cartel policy from the 1960s to the 1990s represented one of incremental development, it is one that reaches its pinnacle during a fourth phase of activity which commenced at the turn of the twentieth century and the start of a new millennium. By this point in time the dangers of naked cartellisation within the neo-liberal hegemony were increasingly being appreciated and understood (OECD, 2003). Cartels were held to be costing society billions in dollars, euros and other currencies and seriously thwarting the benefits of market globalisation. It was now generally taken for granted that the existence of hard core cartels (price-fixing and market sharing agreements which aim to restrict competition) damaged consumers by raising prices and reducing output and had negative repercussions on economic efficiency.1 This universal condemnation and recognition provided the Commission with an apt opportunity to re-examine its own cartel policy and to intensify its war against cartels. It was to culminate in a radical overhaul and restructuring of the entire EU cartel regime. The Commission’s anti-trust zeal was in clear evidence in a growing number of decisions against cartel activity), refinements to its leniency initiative, ever higher increasing fines and stricter fining policy (in 2006), an internal restructuring of DG Competition to enable a more concerted and dedicated approach to combat cartels, the publication of its Green (2005) and White Papers (2008) on Private Actions and increased international cooperation. Most of these innovative and imaginative changes proved fairly straightforward for the Commission...

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