The EU’s Accession to the ECHR and Due Process Rights in EU Competition Law Matters: Nothing New Under the Sun?
University of Bristol Law School
October 4, 2012
In light of the ongoing discussion on the potential need for reform of the enforcement system of EU competition law to make it compliant with Article 6(1) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the aim of this paper is to contribute to the debate in a threefold manner by: i) sketching the peculiarities of the enforcement of competition law (in general, but with a focus on EU competition law), which basically derive from the complex and data intensive economic assessments required in most cases; ii) critically appraising the requirements of Article 6(1) ECHR in the field of EU competition law in view of those peculiarities; and, finally, iii) assessing the impact of those requirements in terms of the potentially necessary amendments to the EU competition law enforcement system upon the EU’s accession to the ECHR.
The basic contention of the paper is that, given the specific architecture of the EU competition law enforcement system under Regulation 1/2003 (and the domestic competition laws of Member States) — which have crystallized in a network of highly specialised and independent administrative agencies that, generally, offer procedural guarantees equivalent (or superior) to those of most tribunals in other areas of the law — and as long as an effective (soft or marginal) judicial review mechanism is available to the undertakings affected by sanctions due to EU competition law infringements, no significant changes are required in order to make the system comply with Articles 6(1) ECHR and 47 EUCFR. This position is further supported by the express normative assumption that undertakings (or companies) deserve a relatively more limited protection than individuals under the ECHR and, more specifically, under Article 6(1) ECHR — at least as regards non-core due process guarantees, such as the standard of review applicable (and as opposed to ‘core’ due process guarantees such as the presumption of innocence, the principle of equality of arms, the right to have full access to the evidence, or the right not to suffer undue delays).
Number of Pages in PDF File: 15
Keywords: competition law, due process, Art 6(1) ECHR, independent and impartial tribunal established by law, EU accession to ECHR, CJEU, enforcement architecture, quasi-criminal offences
JEL Classification: K14, K21, K33, K42
Date posted: October 5, 2012 ; Last revised: May 27, 2013