FAIR COMPETITION – MORE OPPORTUNITIES

On September 9–10 competition law experts and representatives of the European Commission, Lithuanian public and private sector gathered in the 14th Baltic Competition Conference in Vilnius to discuss how competition authorities can become better enforcers, strengthen institutional credibility and contribute to the well-being of the country and the citizens.

In her speech Margrethe Vestager, European Commissioner for Competition, noted that well-functioning markets make the economies grow, help businesses find their place in the market and offer their products to consumers. “As competition enforcers we can contribute to economic growth by protecting consumers from unfair play by market participants“, – said M. Vestager.

The Commissioner noted that when such big companies as Google have grown into dominance, they have special responsibility not to misuse their powers. “Unfortunately, the most recent competition law infringements by such companies as Google or Lithuanian Railways have shown that sometimes things might go different“.

M. Vestager reminded that the European Commission is always ready to enter into a dialoge with market players and national competition authorities which help to ensure competition enforcement successfully, therefore, sufficient powers should be granted to them.

Concerning the challenges of ECN+ proposal, which have been discussed in the second part of the conference, Ian Forrester, Judge at the General Court, said that in order to ensure effective competition enforcement, competition authorities need to be guided by clear procedures which would help to adopt the right decisions and contribute to institutional credibility. Equally important are fines which help to ensure the compliance and deter companies from future breaches of competition law. 

Kris Dekeyser, Director at the European Commission‘s Directorate General for Competition agreed that fines can deter the undertakings from breaking competition rules, thus national competiiton authorities must have the right powers to find illegal acts effectively, impose fines and make sure that the companies pay them.

The challenge of being trusted could best summarise the discussion that we have had today. As competition authorities we have to achieve this trust in the society and among our colleagues of other institutions and courts. Of course, it is significant to bear in mind that being independent imposes the duty to be more accountable to people and decision makers who see our activities as useful and beneficial

–Šarūnas Keserauskas, Competition Council's Chairman

ECN+ proposal is also targeted at strenthening the independence of competition authorities. According to Annetje Ottow, Professor and Dean of the Faculty of Law Economics and Governance at Utrecht University, competition watchdogs can make right and objective decisions only if they work independently. Assimakis Komninos, Partner at law firm White & Case LLP in Brussels, agreed that business wants a strong, independent and well-functioning competition authority which is open-minded, listening and ready to engage in a dialogue.