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France calls for national competition authorities to remain autonomous

The French senate has advised against a centralised EU model for competition regulation, and said that national competition authorities should remain autonomous.19 Feb 2016

Responding to a European Commission consultation on whether national authorities should have more power, the senate said (link in French) that the role of regulators must be more clearly defined.

Authorities need to be properly funded and staffed, and would benefit from a 'statute of independence' in terms of their decision making. They should be able to impose sanctions and fines, and set up 'leniency' programmes for companies who cooperate with investigations, the senate said.

However, it is also important for national parliaments and the courts to retain overall control, to avoid these authorities overstepping their own powers, it said.

National authorities also have to be aware of economic realities and the European context in which businesses are operating, and apply European competition law where possible to allow business to operate in Europe and globally, it said.

The European Competition Network, which works as a central body between the European Commission and national bodies, has been successful in harmonising competition law enforcement by sharing information, but it should be more transparent in its operations, and should not be involved in creating new legal standards, the senate said.

The Commission opened a consultation in November on whether national competition authorities should be given additional tools to enforce EU antitrust rules.

The Commission sought to gather views on how to ensure that: national authorities have adequate tools to detect and sanction violations of EU competition rules; companies are encouraged to come forward to national authorities with evidence of illegal cartels, through leniency programmes; and the independence of the national authorities is safeguarded while ensuring they have the staff and resources they need.