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Actions for Damages > Directive on Antitrust Damages Actions

Overview Damages directive Disclosure of Evidence Collective redress Quantification of harm

Directive on Antitrust Damages Actions

Directive 2014/104/EU on antitrust damages actions was signed into law on 26 November 2014 and published in the Official Journal of the European Union on 5 December 2014.

Implementation of the Directive

Member States need to implement the Directive in their legal systems by 27 December 2016. As the Directive is EEA-relevant, it is to be implemented in the EEA EFTA States as well. 

The implementation process is ongoing. Several countries have already launched or completed public consultations on proposed implementing measures. The following information is publicly available at national level:

Public consultations

26 April 2016 - 27 May 2016
15 June 2015- 11 September 2015
06 October 2015 - 13 November 2015
08 October 2015 - 22 November 2015 
06 November 2015 - 05 February 2016 
11 December 2015 - 11 March 2016 
07 January 2016 - 21 January 2016 
28 January 2016 - 09 March 2016 
10 February 2016 - 02 March 2016
17 March 2016 - 07 April 2016

Other information

'First draft' of implementation measures 

Main changes brought by the Directive

The Directive removes practical obstacles to compensation for all victims of infringements of EU antitrust law. The Directive applies to all damages actions, whether individual or collective, which are available in the Member States.

Further, the Directive fine-tunes the interplay between private damages actions and public enforcement of the EU antitrust rules by the Commission and national competition authorities.

Main changes:

  • Parties will have easier access to evidence they need in actions for damages in the antitrust field. In particular, if a party needs documents that are in the hands of other parties or third parties to prove a claim or a defence, it may obtain a court order for the disclosure of those documents. Disclosure of categories of evidence, described as precisely and narrowly as possible, will also be possible. The judge will have to ensure that disclosure orders are proportionate and that confidential information is duly protected.
  • Similarly as a Commission infringement decision, a final infringement decision of a national competition authority will constitute full proof before civil courts in the same Member State that the infringement occurred. Before courts of other Member States, it will constitute at least prima facie evidence of the infringement.
  • Clear limitation period rules are established so that victims have sufficient time to bring an action. In particular, victims will have at least 5 years to bring damages claims, starting from the moment when they had the possibility to discover that they suffered harm from an infringement. This period will be suspended or interrupted if a competition authority starts infringement proceedings, so that victims can decide to wait until the public proceedings are over. Once a competition authority's infringement decision becomes final, victims will have at least 1 year to bring damages actions.
  • The Directive clarifies the legal consequences of 'passing on'. Direct customers of an infringer sometimes offset the increased price they paid by raising the prices they charge to their own customers (indirect customers). When this occurs, the infringer can reduce compensation to direct customers by the amount they passed on to indirect customers. Compensation for that amount is in fact owed to indirect customers, who in the end suffered from the price increase. However, since it is difficult for indirect customers to prove that they suffered this pass-on, the Directive facilitates their claims by establishing a rebuttable presumption that they suffered some level of overcharge harm, to be estimated by the judge. The Directive contains provisions to avoid that claims by both direct and indirect purchasers lead to overcompensation. Claims concerning harm resulting from loss of profit are not affected by the Directive's passing-on rules.
  • The Directive clarifies that victims are entitled to full compensation for the harm suffered, which covers compensation for actual loss and for loss of profit, plus payment of interest from the time the harm occurred until compensation is paid.
  • The Directive establishes a rebuttable presumption that cartels cause harm. This will facilitate compensation, given that victims often have difficulty in proving the harm they have suffered. The presumption is based on the finding that more than 90% of cartels cause a price increase (as found by a study). In the very rare cases where a cartel does not cause price increases, infringers can still prove that their cartel did not cause harm.
  • Any participant in an infringement will be responsible towards the victims for the whole harm caused by the infringement (joint and several liability), with the possibility of obtaining a contribution from other infringers for their share of responsibility. However, to safeguard the effectiveness of leniency programmes, this will not apply to infringers which obtained immunity from fines in return for their voluntary cooperation with a competition authority during an investigation; these immunity recipients will normally be obliged to compensate only their (direct and indirect) customers. Furthermore, a narrow exception from joint and several liability is foreseen under restrictive conditions for SMEs that would go bankrupt as a consequence of the normal rules on joint and several liability.

Ordinary legislative procedure

Based on a Commission proposal of 11 June 2013 (see below), the Directive was adopted by the European Parliament and the Council of the European Union under the ordinary legislative procedure (Article 294 TFEU).

Legislative milestones:

  • On 2 December 2013 the Council adopted its general approach on the Commission's proposal, which gives the Council Presidency the mandate to start negotiations with the European Parliament and the European Commission with a view of reaching an agreement in the first reading.
  • On 27 January 2014, the ECON Committee of the European Parliament adopted its Report on the Proposal and provided the Rapporteur with a mandate to start trilogue negotiations with the Council and the Commission in view of reaching an agreement in first reading.
  • In February and March 2014, three political trilogues and several technical meetings took place in order to reach an agreement on the text. This agreement was reached on 20 March 2014.
  • On 26 March 2014, COREPER endorsed the agreed result of the trilogues.
  • On 17 April 2014, the Parliament approved the compromise text of the Directive. See Commission press release and memo.
  • Following linguistic corrections, the Directive was finally adopted by the Council on 10 November 2014. See Commission press release.
  • The Directive was formally signed into law on 26 November 2014 and published in the Official Journal of the EU on 5 December 2014.

Commission proposal

The Directive is based on the Commission proposal for a Directive on antitrust damages actions for breaches of EU competition law, which was adopted on 11 June 2013.

Speeches and articles

Preparatory work: White Paper

The proposal for a Directive follows up on a White Paper adopted on 2 April 2008. The White Paper suggested specific policy measures so that all victims of EU antitrust infringements could effectively access redress mechanisms in order to be fully compensated for the harm they had suffered.

1) Documents
2) Comments received
  • The European Parliament adopted a resolution on 26 March 2009 and the European Economic and Social Committee an opinion pdf on 25 March 2009.
  • The European Consumer Consultative Group (ECCG) adopted an opinion pdf on 23 November 2010.
  • See also the contributions received during the public consultation

Green Paper

The White Paper was preceded by a Green Paper which was published in 2005. This had identified the main obstacles to a more efficient system for bringing damages claims for infringement of EU antitrust law, and had already proposed measures encouraging the right to compensation by victims of infringements of the EU antitrust rules.

1) Documents
2) Comments received
  • The European Parliament adopted a resolution on 25 April 2007 and the European Economic and Social Committee an opinion pdf on 26 October 2006
  • See also the contributions received during the public consultation on the Green Paper

Studies prepared for the Commission

Key Court cases

Key Court cases The European Court of Justice held in several instances and contexts that anyone who suffered harm through an infringement of the EU antitrust rules is entitled to full compensation, and that national rules should ensure the effectiveness of this right. See for instance:

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