[author: Howard W. Fogt]

Acting to rid European Union markets of restrictive trade practices like seemingly endemic industrial cartels, the European Commission has long sought to employ an arsenal of weapons to deter violations of European competition law.1 The Commission has prosecuted scores of cartels. It has levied very substantial fines and penalties. It has employed so-called dawn raids to capture evidence from the unwary. It has lobbied EU member states to criminalize cartel activity by business. If the statistics published by the Commission each year on its Web site are any indication, the European Commission is making some progress, however limited, to stem the tide of activity undermining the benefits of free and open markets.2

Recently, the European Commission has adopted a radically different approach to deterrence. In addition to long-standing efforts to detect and prosecute competition wrongdoers, the Commission has launched a campaign to encourage compliance as a matter of business self-interest. Since the 2004 modernization of EU competition rules, individual enterprises have been forced to assume much increased responsibility to assure compliance. To that end, the Commission is now promoting the adoption of competition compliance programs as one important means to curb illegal activity. Through its recent publication, Compliance Matters: What Companies Can Do Better to Respect EU Competition Rules, the European Commission provides a useful toolkit for company advisors and executives seeking assistance with these issues.3