Cartel Enforcement Across Five EU Commissioners’ Terms Tracked by Analysis Group Competition Experts

October 6, 2020

In a paper published in the Journal of European Competition Law & Practice, four Analysis Group authors assessed the cartel enforcement activity of the five Commissioners for Competition who led the European Union’s Directorate-General for Competition (DG-Comp) from 1994 to 2019. Drawing on a database compiled by Analysis Group of 722 fines imposed by DG-Comp on 110 different cartels, President Pierre Y. Cremieux, Managing Principal Antoine Chapsal, Vice President Emmanuel Frot, and Associate Jon Freimark developed a multidimensional methodology for comparing enforcement activity across the five Commissioners’ terms.

The authors first charted fines for each year by size and industry, identifying individual cartels and highlighting the largest fines imposed by the five commissioners. This allowed them to discuss several overarching trends in enforcement over the 26-year period. They then compared activity in each commissioner’s term on six metrics: total fine amount, total number of fines, average fine, median fine, number of cartels fined, and ratio of zero-amount fines to the number of cartels fined.

This analysis indicated a recent shift in later terms towards larger fines imposed on fewer but larger companies, as well as robust use of an enhanced leniency program. The authors concluded that, at a time when other types of anticompetitive behavior – particularly unilateral behavior in the rapidly growing digital economy – are drawing increased regulatory attention and enforcement resources, cartel enforcement remains an important tool for European regulators.

Read the paper (subscription required)