European Commission Publishes White Paper on Damage Actions for Breach of the EU Antitrust Rules



On April 3, 2008 the European Commission (“the Commission”) published its long-awaited White Paper setting forth recommendations designed to create an effective private enforcement system for victims of competition law infringements in Europe.[1] The White Paper represents another attempt by the Commission to breathe life into the movement to remove legal and procedural obstacles to civil

damage actions for competition law violations in Europe – a possibility which has been touted for many years but has made relatively little progress in practice.

The Commission recognizes that some form of Community legislation will likely be needed to establish an effective private enforcement system in all EU Member States; however, the technical legal hurdles that will need to be overcome to achieve significant reform in this area are formidable. Given the practical difficulties, it is possible that real progress in moving towards civil damages for competition law infringements will be achieved, not so much by the kind of coordinated approach proposed by the Commission, but by individual initiatives that are being pursued in particular Member States, such as the U.K.


Before discussing the recommendations in the Commission’s White Paper, it is important to keep in mind that the litigation landscape in the EU is dramatically different from that in the U.S. There is no system of federal courts or jurisdiction, little or no procedures on discovery and class actions, no treble damages, and a lack of tradition or expertise in the courts (with some minor exceptions in the UK and some other northern European countries) in dealing with complex economic issues.

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