The new year is traditionally a time for looking to see how we can do things better – whether it’s spending less, exercising more, or being more productive. And then making sure we put that into long-term practice! Competition authorities are no different: we too need to, and do, constantly ask how we can do our work as effectively as possible.
With this in mind, I want to talk about the European Commission’s recently launched consultation on the current effectiveness of competition law enforcement across Europe.
Effective enforcement across the EU isn’t just important to us and other competition authorities. It’s just as important for businesses and consumers, both in the UK and elsewhere. So for the Commission’s consultation to be as useful as possible, it’s important that it hears a wide range of views and experiences. Not just from authorities or legal advisers, but also businesses and consumers themselves and those that represent them.
I encourage you to consider responding to the consultation, as we intend to, to make sure your views are heard.
Why effective enforcement throughout Europe matters
So why do I see the consultation as being particularly timely and important? We’re proud of our independent enforcement of the law, and our ability to tackle anti-competitive behaviour affecting UK markets. But the rapidly evolving, increasingly borderless markets and issues that we now face also make effective international enforcement and joint working between competition authorities more important than ever.
As a member of the European Competition Network, we work hard with the competition authorities from other EU member states to share best practice, establish common, consistent approaches to enforcing the law, and co-operate on individual cases. This ongoing communication allows us to share the benefit of our experience and learn from others, and is something we remain firmly committed to.
But it’s also important that in all EU member states, each national competition authority is individually able to carry out its functions effectively. If all authorities in the EU have the necessary freedom and tools to do their jobs, we can achieve better, more consistent enforcement of the competition rules across the whole of Europe. And, through that enforcement, root out illegal practices and help to create an increasingly fair, open and dynamic marketplace for all.
The work of competition authorities therefore has real benefits for consumers, lowering prices and increasing choice and innovation. It also helps to give businesses the confidence that – both here and abroad – they can compete on an even footing to offer the best products to their customers, encouraging cross-border business and reducing its costs.
A continuing journey
A huge amount has been achieved by competition authorities in recent years, from which UK consumers and businesses have greatly benefited, wherever it is in Europe that they are buying or selling products or services. But there is more that can be done. Inconsistencies or enforcement gaps in individual countries can affect us all.
To have your say, you can respond to the consultation by visiting the Commission’s consultation page. The deadline for responses is 12 February 2016.
I’ll be posting our next quarterly Promoting Competition blog soon. But for the time being, I would just like to wish you all a happy and prosperous new year.