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Cooperation could reduce competition fines, says commissioner

Companies that cooperate with competition authorities could be given lower fines, in a bid to speed up competition investigations.01 Feb 2016

Competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said this week that she believes the Commission "should reward companies that admit to having broken the law, especially when they come up with ways to make the markets more competitive, or companies that provide evidence voluntarily, Reuters reported.

The faster the Commission can wrap up a case and restore competition to the market, the less consumers will suffer, "and to get that result, I think it's worth cutting the fines we impose," Vestager said, according to Reuters.

Vestager said fines could be reduced by more than 10%, with no need for new legislation, Reuters reported.

"Our guidelines allow us to reduce fines for companies that cooperate. But it's been more than a decade since the Commission last used that possibility outside cartels. I think it's time we looked seriously at how we can use it more," Vestager said, according to the news site.

Competition expert Guy Lougher of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com said: "The proposed policy is a pragmatic one, trying to reduce the burden of adopting infringement decisions in order to achieve a greater throughput of cases and thereby maximise deterrence. The Commission's approach is to be welcomed. "

The Commission issued fines totalling more than €137 million last week for the part three companies played in cartel arrangements in the car parts market. Melco (Mitsubishi Electric) and Hitachi, together with another business called Denso "coordinated prices and allocated customers or projects with regards to alternators and starters" between September 2004 and February 2010, the Commission said.

Denso escaped a fine after disclosing details of the arrangements to the Commission, and the fine imposed on Melco and Hitachi was lowered as a result of the companies' cooperation with the Commission's investigation and as part of the settlement of the case.