BUSINESS

EU directive for cartel damages

By Dimitra Manifava

Corporations and consumers will soon be able to seek damages for losses or lost profits from cartel activity, according to a proposal for a European Union directive that will likely be introduced during the course of the bloc’s Greek presidency.

This directive is among the main priorities of the country’s Development Ministry. After eight years of negotiations, it was adopted last June by the European Commission, discussed by the council of EU ministers in December and its first reading at the European Parliament will be on January 27.

According to the proposal, a necessary condition for anyone to resort to a civic court to seek damages will be the issue of a condemning decision by the national competition authorities on the operation of a cartel or abuse of dominant market position. Those seeking damages will not have to make their case a second time once the decision has already gone their way on a national level.

There is still a gray zone surrounding the issue of group cases (for example by consumer groups), as this has not been included in the proposal and proved to be a bone of contention during the years of negotiations about the directive. What it does include is the facilitation of consumers’ or corporations’ access to evidence that is usually in the possession of those accused or third parties. The proposal further provides for a statute of limitations as consumers or enterprises will have between three and five years to resort to justice against cartels – the precise length of that period remains under negotiation.

As soon as the directive is ratified, member states will have a grace period of two years to incorporate it into their national law. In Greece, the General Secretariat for Consumers had in the past prepared a bill to that effect, but it never reached Parliament.

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