EU seeks to modernize antitrust rules to keep up with the digital age

EU regulators are reportedly looking to streamline rules which target firms that abuse market power and set up illegal cartels, to boost efficiency.

Under the policy ‘Regulation 1/2003’, which has been applicable since 2004, the European Commission has dealt with tech giants like Google, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, Meta, and Intel, and imposed fines touching billions of euros.

These rules have also authorized the EU competition enforcer to target any manipulation of financial benchmarks by banks, car parts cartels, and other illegal price-fixing ventures, giving the EU agency unprecedented power in antitrust enforcement.

Antitrust Chief Margrethe Vestager was quoted saying that in the coming months the agency seeks to launch an evaluation of Regulation 1/2003, which is the pillar of its antitrust enforcement framework.

It is vital to take stakeholders’ views about best approaches, and potential areas for improvement in procedures and enforcement tools; to ensure that Regulation 1 is compatible with the digital age, she stated.

Vestager further added that the newly modified rules would make them more operational and helpful to businesses.

Notably, such procedural changes will pertain to information requests sent to companies, oral hearings where companies defend their cases, dawn raids, and the 10% limit on fines for non-compliance or breach of rules.

The European Commission stated that its teams had recently undertaken surprise inspections at several German company premises which offered services like transmission, supply, and storage of natural gas. EU antitrust officers also raided the German branches of Russian state-owned energy company Gazprom, believing that it had illegally inflated prices in Europe.

This move came after a complaint filed by Ukraine about the company to the EU, accusing it of creating ‘artificial shortages of natural gas to push prices upward.

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