MEPs call for radical shake up of EU competition policy

The European Parliament has adopted its annual own-initiative report on EU competition policy by a large cross-party majority. 

The document was adopted by an overwhelming majority of MEPs.

The report calls for a "fundamental overhaul of EU competition policy."

It contains a list of key demands. They are as follows:

I. General Enforcement issues:

  • -Ask the Commission to consider environmental and social externalities in Competition law enforcement
  • -Call to the Commission to analyse consumer harm transcending  price centric- approaches
  • -Call for the incorporation of behavioural economics in the design of antitrust remedies

II. Environment/ Sustainability:

  • -The report asks the Commission to review the EU Merger regulation and analyse to what extent the European Commission can within the merger control adopt measures to protect the rights and principles of the TFEU and EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, including environmental protection. This means the DG Competition cannot approve mergers like Bayer/ Monsanto by hiding behind the argument that it has no competence to address the environmental concerns deriving from the merger.
  • -Criticism on the Bayer- Monsanto merger and on concentration in the food supply chain with special attention to issues related to biodiversity and incomes for small farmers.
  • -Inclusion of nuclear energy and extraction of fossil fuels in the Commission's Energy and state aid guidelines (to be revised in 2020). Currently the Commission state aid guidelines cover infrastructure and operational aid to renewables subjecting such schemes to stricter and more detailed scrutiny in comparison to a direct assessment under the Treaty. On the contrary, aid to nuclear power plants, as seen in the Hickley Point case, is subject to an open-ended assessment under TFEU 107 that leads to more lenient results.
  • -The report criticises aid granted to capacity mechanisms and underlines that any aid approval on such schemes shall ensure these schemes are not open to polluting assets
  • -The Commission is asked to encourage within  competition policy cooperatives, that are made throughout the food supply chain for the purpose of sustainability and fair labour standard, given that its interpretation of TFEU 101 is stricter than the one followed by the ECJ, having a chilling effect on these collective associations

 III. Digital Economy:

On digital economy, the report provides a very concrete list of recommendations to the EC for adapting competition tools to the digital era:

  • -Require interoperability between online platforms and social network providers
  • -Adjudge the control of data necessary for the creation and provision of services as a proxy for the existence of market power
  • -Revision of the thresholds that constitute the starting point of the merger control by the Commission and call for their adaptation to the number of consumers impacted by mergers rather than solely focusing on turnover.(See Facebook/ Whats' up merger)
  • -Asks the Commission to monitor price caps in sectors such as online platforms for accommodation and tourism
  • -Require the Commission  to conduct a sector inquiry in the advertising sector
  • -Asks the Commission to facilitate the adoption of interim measures within a specified timeframe

 IV. Financial Services:

  • -For the first time in an EP report, a call is made to the Commission to examine the discrepancies between the rules on state aid in the area of liquidation aid and BRRD and to revise its 2013 Banking Communication
  • -The Commission is asked to examine whether banking institutions have, since the onset of the crisis, benefited from implicit subsidies and state aid through the provision of liquidity support as well as examine possible distortions of competition arising from the ECB’s Corporate Sector Purchase Programme (ECB invests massively in brown assets) and to report back to the European Parliament.
  • -Underlines the hidden social cost and reduced product competition from higher levels of horizontal ownership concentration and calls the European Commission to consider revising the Merger regulation as well as provide guidelines on the use of Article 101 and 102 TFEU in such cases.

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Martin Banks

Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a highly qualified journalist with many years experience of working within the EU institutions. He is an occasional, and highly valued, contributor to EU today, writing on a wide variety of issues.

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