Delivering for consumers
EU institutions and competition policy
The European Parliament is the only institution directly elected by the European citizens. The 736 members of the Parliament (MEP) are elected every five years and sit according to their political allegiance, not according to the Member State of origin. Parliament's legislative procedure is shared with the EU Council for almost three quarters of EU policy through the “co-decision procedure”. Competition policy is not subject to the co-decision procedure.
Parliament committees relevant to competition
There are 2 committees dealing specifically with matters concerning competition policy and consumer welfare:
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The European Council – a quarterly summit between EU leaders - defines the general political direction and priorities of the European Union, providing the necessary impetus for its development and defining the general political directions and priorities thereof.
The European Council, in accordance with the European Parliament plays an important role in approving the Competition Commissioner nominated by national governments and the Commission President.
Together with the European Parliament, the Council is where EU laws on consumer protection and competition law are approved.
For competition matters, the relevant ministers from each EU country meet in what is called the "Competitiveness Council".
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The European Commission ensures the correct application of EU competition rules.
This involves mainly monitoring and, where necessary, blocking:
- anticompetitive agreements (and hardcore cartels in particular)
- abuses by companies of dominant market positions
- mergers and acquisitions
- government support
To do this, the Commission has a wide range of inspection and enforcement powers, e.g. to investigate businesses, hold hearings and grant exemptions. Governments also have a duty to notify in advance any planned support for business (state aid).
Nonetheless, some of its enforcement functions have been undertaken by Member States since 2004 under the "modernisation" process (Regulation 1/2003). This allows national competition authorities and national courts to apply and enforce Art. 101 (ex Article 81 TEC) and 102 (ex Article 82 TEC) of the TFEU.
In implementing all aspects of competition policy, the Commission takes into account the interest of consumers.
For further information on specific cases, current legislation and more please visit the Commission's Competition website.
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European Court of Justice
The Court of Justice is the main European judicial body ensuring uniform interpretation and application of competition law across the EU.
Often unheralded, the Court’s many landmark rulings over the years have had a significant effect on the daily lives of Europeans, helping re-establish workable competition on EU markets that has delivered a wider choice of better-quality products/services at lower prices.
Competition cases are now heard by the EU’s General Court (previously “Court of First Instance”), with appeals going to the Court of Justice.
National courts can (and sometimes must) refer cases to the Court of Justice for clarification on how EU competition law is to be interpreted on a specific issue.
More on the European Court of Justice
Case law on competition cases
European Central Bank
The European Central Bank is the central bank for Europe's single currency, the euro. Its main task is to maintain the euro's purchasing power and thus price stability in the euro area. The euro area comprises the 16 European Union countries that have introduced the euro since 1999.
The European Central Bank is consulted regularly on all competition issues related to the financial sector.
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Court of Auditors
The Court of Auditors monitors the proper collection and legal spending of the EU budget (European taxpayers’ money) on EU policies.
It has the authority to audit fines imposed on companies found liable for anti-competitive behaviour in cases brought by the Commission.
The money paid in fines goes back into the EU budget.
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European Social and Economic Committee
A body through which trade unions, employers’ associations and other groups representing civil society express their opinion on EU issues, contributing to the decision-making process.
It has a section dealing specifically with competition policy and consumer welfare issues (Single Market Production and Consumption (INT) section).
More on the EESC
Current competition legislation
Where to find legislation in force?
More on competition policy
To help it assess the potential harm of anti-competitive behaviour, the European Commission welcomes contributions and comments from interested parties in specific cases. For each individual case, the stakeholder groups eligible to submit comments are clearly identified.
The Commission also consults on all its policy initiatives.
See ongoing consultations