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EU national competition authorities should be given more power, say consultation results

National competition authorities (NCAs) across the EU should be given more power to effectively enforce antitrust rules, according to the results of a European Commission public consultation. 19 Apr 2016

EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager told a European Parliament committee that the results of the consultation show a "very coherent wish" for national enforcement to have the power to tackle illegal conduct, MLex has reported.

The public consultation, launched in November, asked for views on how to ensure that NCAs could act independently in enforcing competition rules, detecting and tackling infringements, imposing fines, and putting leniency programmes in place.

The Commission stressed at the time that it was keen to hear views from business as well as from competition practitioners.

Vestager told the committee this week that 65% of respondents "prefer action to be taken both at EU and national level", 19% would prefer only EU-level action, and 8% would choose national measures alone, MLex reported. Three-quarters of those responding agree that there is a need for sufficient fines and investigative powers at a national level, along with sufficient staff and safeguards on independence, Vestager told the committee.

Competition expert Guy Lougher of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said: "The results of the survey support the proposal that there should be consistency in terms of the investigative and enforcement powers possessed by national competition authorities across the EU. This would be an important step forward, but it is also necessary to achieve greater harmonisation on procedural issues across the EU."