Take No Comfort but the Level of Fines Imposed by the European Commission in 2015 for Competition Law Breaches was one of the Lowest in Years

The European Commission may impose fines for breaches of competition law. In particular, it may impose fines on "undertakings" (e.g., businesses) and "associations of undertakings" (e.g., trade associations).  These fines can be very significant: fines may be up to 10% of worldwide turnover. 

The fines for cartels and other breaches of competition law totalled €364.5m in 2015.  While €364.5m is a substantial amount by any standards, it was the lowest figure in the period between 2004 and 2015.

A figure of €364.5 is way down on figures such as €3,300m in 2007, €2,900 in 2010 or even €1,700 in 2014.

This is not a sign that the European Commission has eased on its enforcement.  Very often, cartel enforcement is cyclical.  Equally, decisions in cases do not come to an end neatly within calendar years and there can be years where investigations which have taken a number of years cluster.  The reduction in fines could be due to increased settlements, the effects of the Cartes Bancaires case which limited the type of cases which might be investigated, the fact that the Commission has spent a great deal of time and resources on State aid cases but is probably just a blip like 2011 (which saw fines totaling only €614 after €2,900 in 2010 and then saw a rise again to €1,900 in 2012).

For further information, please contact Dr Vincent Power or any member of the EU, Competition and Procurement Law team at A&L Goodbody.

Date published: 13 January 2016