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Competition

PR(05)13: Competition: Modernised EEA competition law regime enters into force

19.5.2005

A new regime for the application of the competition rules of the EEA Agreement entered into force today. The new rules establish how Articles 53 and 54 of the EEA Agreement shall be applied. Article 53 EEA bans, as a main rule, agreements and concerted behaviour between undertakings which distort competition within the EEA. Article 54 EEA prohibits abuses of dominant positions by undertakings.

The new regime results from the incorporation into the EEA framework of the reform of competition rules that entered into force in the EU on 1 May 2004. This reform, where Council Regulation (EC) No. 1/2003 provides the main rules, represents a major modernisation of the EU antitrust enforcement regime. With the entry into force of the new EEA regime,[1]   the enforcement regime on the EFTA side will, to a large extent, reflect the regime in the EU.

The new regime provides for:

  • The abolition of the previous notification system, whereupon undertakings could request a declaration by the Authority (or by the European Commission) as to whether or not their behaviour infringes Article 53 or 54 EEA. Under the new regime, economic operators cannot rely on such declarations, but, if deemed necessary, would themselves have to assess whether their market behaviour would infringe the competition rules of the EEA Agreement.
  • Decentralised application of Articles 53 and 54 EEA in the EFTA States. The national courts and competition authorities of the EFTA States are empowered to apply Articles 53 and 54 EEA. Furthermore, when applying national competition law in cases where Articles 53 or 54 EEA are applicable, national competition authorities and courts are obliged to also apply Articles 53 and 54 EEA. The result is a greater involvement of the national courts and competition authorities of the EFTA States in the application of the EEA competition rules.
  • Closer cooperation between the EFTA Surveillance Authority and the national competition authorities and courts of the EFTA States in order to provide homogenous application and coordinated enforcemement of EEA competition rules in the EFTA States.
  • A strengthening of the investigatory and decision-making powers of the EFTA Surveillance Authority. 

A high level of cooperation between the Authority and the European Commission is maintained, ensuring homogenous application of Articles 53 and 54 EEA in the entire EEA. Decentralised application of Articles 53 and 54 EEA by the EU Member States is not part of the reform.

The Commission has adopted six guidance notices as part of the modernisation reform. The EFTA Surveillance Authority will adopt corresponding notices clarifying various aspects of the new antitrust enforcement regime, thus completing the modernisation process on the EFTA side. The first three notices were adopted on 18 May 2005 and concern:

  • informal guidance to be provided by the Authority concerning the application of Articles 53 and 54 EEA;
  • the effect on trade concept contained in Articles 53 and 54 EEA; and
  • the application of Article 53(3) EEA.

The remaining notices to be adopted in the near future concern:

  • the handling of complaints by the Authority under Articles 53 and 54 EEA;
  • cooperation within the EFTA network of competition authorities; and
  • cooperation between the Authority and the national courts of the EFTA States regarding the application of Articles 53 and 54 EEA.

For further information, please contact Mr. Amund Utne, Director Competition and State Aid Directorate, tel. (+32)(0)2 286 18 50, Ms. Cecile Odello, Senior Officer, tel. (+32)(0)2 286 18 23 or Ms. Kjersti Bjerkebo, Officer, tel. (+32)(0)2 286 18 54 or consult the Authority's website at www.eftasurv.int.

[1]The core part of the reform, i.e. Decision No 130/2004 and the amended Chapter II of Protocol 4 to the Surveillance and Court Agreement, entered into force today, however, EEA Joint Committee Decision No 178/2004 incorporating Commission Regulation (EC) No. 773/2004 (the Implementing Regulation) and the corresponding changes to the Surveillance and Court Agreement will enter into force on 1 July 2005.

19 May 2005




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