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Actions for Damages > Overview

Towards more effective antitrust damages actions in Europe

Infringements of the EU antitrust rules (Articles 101 and 102 TFEU), such as cartels or abuse of a dominant position in the market, are not only detrimental for the economy and consumers at large: they also cause concrete harm (e.g. higher prices, lost profits) to concrete victims (e.g. infringers' direct and indirect customers, infringers' competitors and their customers).

The Court of Justice of the European Union has established that any citizen or business has a right to full compensation for the harm caused to them by an infringement of the EU antitrust rules.

However, in practice most victims, particularly SMEs and consumers, rarely obtain compensation. The right to compensation is an EU right, but its exercise is governed by national rules. These often make it costly and difficult to bring antitrust damages actions.

That is why in 2013 the Commission proposed a Directive to remove the main obstacles to effective compensation, and to guarantee minimum protection for citizens and businesses, everywhere in the EU. Following adoption by the ordinary legislative procedure, Directive 2014/104/EU on Antitrust Damages Actions entered into force on 26 December 2014. Member States need to implement it in their legal systems by 27 December 2016.

A complementary measure to the Directive is the Commission Recommendation on collective redress, which invited Member States to introduce by 26 July 2015 collective redress mechanisms, including actions for damages. Collective damages actions are particularly important for consumers harmed by antitrust violations. Since the Directive applies to any damages actions in the antitrust field, it also applies to collective damages actions in those Member States where they are – or will be – available. The Commission will assess the Recommendation's implementation and, if appropriate, propose further measures by 26 July 2017.

Further complementary measures are the Commission Communication and Practical Guide on quantifying antitrust harm in damages actions. They aim to help national courts and parties to antitrust damages actions in the often complex task of quantifying damages. The Practical Guide provides an overview of the main economic methods, techniques and empirical insights available to quantify damages in practice..

Additional quantification guidance will be provided by the Commission in the form of Guidelines for national courts on the passing-on of overcharges. The Commission is assisted in drafting the Guidelines by a Study on the Passing-on of Overcharges. Drawing on relevant economic theory and quantitative methods, as well as relevant legal practice and rules, the study provides judges, legal practitioners and parties to antitrust damages actions with a practical framework for assessing and quantifying passing-on effects. A French Executive summary is available.

Apart from the above legislation and complementary measures, the Commission is committed to providing assistance to national courts in the application of Articles 101 and 102 TFEU. This includes a funding programme for training of national judges in EU competition law and judicial cooperation between national judges.