European Commission Issues Guidance on How to Comply with EU Competition Law On November 23, 2011, the European Commission (Commission) issued for the first time guidelines for companies on how to comply with EU competition law (EU Compliance Guidelines). The EU Compliance Guidelines are welcome at a time when regulators in the EU and beyond show no signs in relenting in their enforcement against violations of competition laws. While the EU Compliance Guidelines focus on preventative steps to be taken to avoid competition law violations in the first place, they have been criticized as not providing sufficient incentives for companies to comply.
Complying with Competition Law in Europe The Commission states that “[i]t is the prime responsibility of large, medium and small companies alike to comply with these rules. Companies need to be
aware of the risks of infringing competition rules and how to develop a compliance strategy that best suits their needs. An effective compliance strategy enables a company to minimize the risk of involvement in competition law infringements, and the costs resulting from anti-competitive behaviour.” EU competition law affects every business with activities or customers in the
EU, even if the company has its headquarters outside the EU. Companies who infringe EU competition law risk fines of up to 10 per cent of annual worldwide turnover. Although individuals cannot be penalized under the EU rules for failure to comply with EU competition law, in some Member States, including the UK and Ireland, anticompetitive conduct may result in criminal penalties (fines and jail), possibly in addition to the fines imposed on their companies.
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