January 21, 2010
On Tuesday, the Bulgarian Commissioner nominee, Rumiana Jeleva, handed in her resignation letter. As a consequence, the vote to approve the new Commission has been postponed until February 9th in order to allow for the questioning of the new Bulgarian Commissioner nominee. The European Parliament has thus, for the second time in the EU’s history, used its power to influence on the appointment of the Commission. As the consent of the Parliament is required to appoint the Commission, already the possible threat of not consenting therefore gives the Parliament sufficient leverage to influence on the final composition of the new Commission. (more…)
October, 6 2009
On October 2nd the Irish went to the polls for a second time regarding the Treaty of Lisbon. This time the yes-side won with a convincing majority. However, one may ask is it legitimate to request a Member State to vote on the same issue until they get it “right”? The Czech euro-skeptic president Vaclav Klaus claims it isn’t. In fact, he is refusing to ratify the new Treaty even though the Parliament of his country has already ratified it. Is this any more democratic than submitting the Treaty for a popular vote twice, taking into account that when the Irish voted for the second time, they had been promised certain legal guarantees on issues such as abortion and taxation, so it was not technically exactly the same Treaty? What is more, the action brought by 17 Czech senators before the Czech Constitutional Court on the compatibility of the Treaty of Lisbon with Czech constitutional law is also questioning the compatibility of the Treaty of Maastricht and the Treaty of Rome. In other words, it also challenges the acquis communautaire which the Czech Republic approved when it joined the EU in 2004, so it seems strange to question the constitutionality of those Treaties five years after the Czech accession… (more…)
May 13, 2009
On March 26, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the Commission White Paper on damages actions for breach of the EC antitrust rules. In general, the Parliament is favorable to the Commission’s proposals on enhancing private enforcement of EC competition law, but stresses that any Community measure “must not lead to arbitrary or unnecessary fragmentation of procedural national laws” and that the Commission should examine the possibilities of proceeding in a horizontal or integrated way. It also requests the Commission to identify a legal basis for the adoption of the proposed measures. (more…)
December 12, 2008
Recently the European Commission published a Green Paper on Consumer Collective Redress which provides options for how to facilitate redress in situations where large numbers of consumers have been harmed by a single trader’s practice which is in breach of consumer law. A survey requested by Directorate-General for Health and Consumers suggests that 76% of consumers in the EU would be more willing to defend their rights in court if they could bring an action together with other consumers.
Breaches of the EC antitrust rules fall outside the scope of the Green Paper, but the recent White Paper on Damages actions for breach of the EC antitrust rules also proposes the introduction of collective antitrust damages actions, namely representative actions, which would be brought by qualified entities on behalf of some or all of their members, and opt-in actions in which victims expressly decide to combine their individual claims into one single action. However, similar to the field of consumer law, it seems that there is a certain degree of hostility in Europe towards introducing class actions for damages that would be based on an opt-out mechanism, i.e. the possibility of bringing claims also on behalf of unidentified class members. It is a common fear that the introduction of class actions would lead to the adoption of a US-style litigation culture. For instance, the EU Consumer Affairs Commissioner Meglena Kuneva has expressly ruled out the US-style system of class actions for damages.
But also many antitrust practitioners and academics are strongly opposed to class actions. They fear that frivolous class actions might be brought and that defendants will be forced to settle in order to avoid paying large damages awards. Other features of the US civil procedure, such as jury-trials and treble damages, which can but do not always accompany a class action, are also often perceived as an inherent part of the class action. In fact, in the US, treble damages may not only be sought in antitrust class actions, but are also the result of a successful individual action seeking damages for an antitrust violation. In addition, it is often conveniently forgotten that abuses of the class action device mainly occur in other fields of law, while the complexity and uncertainty in the outcome of antitrust class actions tend to limit the abuses.
June 19, 2008
For the second time in the last three years, the European Union faces the challenge of finding a solution to an institutional crisis. In 2005, the European Constitution was rejected by the French and the Dutch, and last Thursday the Irish rejected the Treaty of Lisbon, a revised version of the Constitution.
Several options for how the EU should now proceed have been put forward by politicians and academics these last days. It has been suggested that a group of Member States could move forwarded in the form of reinforced cooperation or that the Treaty should only apply to 26 countries. However, legally the Treaty of Lisbon will not enter into force before it has been ratified by all Member States and as long as Ireland (or any other Member State that has not yet ratified the Treaty) does not do so, it will not be possible to only apply it to the Member States that have ratified it. (more…)
April 10, 2008
Last week, the European Commission published its White Paper on Damages actions for breach of the EC antitrust rules (available here). The principles of the White Paper are developed in more detail in the accompanying Commission Staff Working Paper (see here). The White Paper presents policy options and specific measures to ensure that all victims of infringements of the EC competition rules have access to effective redress mechanisms in order to obtain full compensation for the harm that they have suffered as a result of the infringements. To date, only a small number of the victims have been compensated for the loss that they have suffered, since the national rules that govern antitrust damages actions contain several legal and procedural obstacles to enforcing the Community right to damages for antitrust infringements. (more…)