European Community Competition Procedure

By Luis Ortiz Blanco | Go to book overview

3

Opening of the File

(A)
Action taken by the Commission before a File is Opened

1. Informal Contacts

The European Commission in general, and DG IV in particular, is accessible to undertakings and individuals who wish to find out how it operates and how it interprets and applies Community competition law. The Commission advises that, if they have any doubts as to the meaning of competition rules, undertakings should contact DG IV, in order either to adjust their agreements and practices to conform with the competition rules or to defend themselves against conduct on the part of other undertakings which is adversely affecting them.

The Commission also maintains close contact with various European business associations, industrial groups and consumers' and users' associations, through which it is able to obtain first-hand information on the conduct of undertakings in their markets.

Finally, as well as talking to undertakings, trade associations and consumers' associations, the Commission maintains constant contact with the national competition authorities in the Member States. Such contacts are not confined to the formal framework of Article 10 of Regulation 17,1 but extend to informal contacts and exchanges of information not directly relating to specific procedures already initiated.2

Given the informal nature of contacts thus established, they are not in principle treated as necessarily constituting the basis for an investigation, since at this stage it is still not known whether a procedure will ultimately be initiated. This phase is preparatory and exploratory and in many cases does not automatically culminate in the initiation of a procedure, although some informal contacts of this kind may in fact produce that result. Any initiation of a procedure will be either at the request of a party, when the purpose of the informal contact has

____________________
1
This provision refers to the co-operation between the Commission and the authorities of the Member States, in particular the Advisory Committee on Restrictive Practices and Dominant Positions. For the terms of reference and functioning of that Committee, see above, Chapter 1.II.C.2.b.
2
The national administrations may also, without prejudice to their powers under Art. 88 of the Treaty and Art. 9(3) of Reg. 17, advise individuals and undertakings which have approached them that they should refer their case to the European Commission. Conversely, where the Commission has matters referred to it which are not within its purview, it advises individuals and undertakings, where appropriate, to contact the national competition authorities.

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