The role of national judges in assisting the European Commission and the National Competition Authorities in the conduct of inspections for the enforcement of EU competition law.
Regulation 1/2003 provides the Commission with a set of specific powers to ensure effective enforcement of Articles 101 and 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).
Inspections are certainly the Commission powers raising the most interesting challenges for the great degree of intrusiveness in persons' lives, and are by far the most effective means the Commission has to discover the most serious breaches of EU competition rules. In the case of multi-jurisdictional alleged violations, the Commission may also ask for the help of National Competition Authorities (NCAs) in carrying out simultaneous inspections. In such cases, NCAs will have to carry out inspections according to their national rules, thus importing the differences in procedures in the Member States into Commission proceedings, such as in the case of judicial authorisation before carrying out an inspection in the premises of an undertaking. A different rule applies to inspections in private premises; here judicial authorisation is provided by Article 21 Regulation 1/2003 itself, thus not leaving to Member States any option for a different solution.
The national judicial authority will issue its mandate or judicial authorisation according to the relevant national law, while also complying with the conditions provided in Article 20(8) Regulation 1/2003, which limit the role of the national judge to the assessment of the authenticity of the inspection decision adopted by the Commission and of the non-arbitrariness and non-excessiveness of the coercive measures envisaged having regard to the subject matter of the inspection. The national judge cannot however, argue on the necessity of the inspection.
Nevertheless, the power of national judges is not to be underestimated, given that he/she can refuse his/her assistance, if not satisfied with the further clarification asked of the Commission before taking the decision to give authorisation. The carrying out of inspections in the Member States may be based on different standards bringing diverging or dissimilar results, to the detriment of the coherent and consistent application of EU competition law.
Two nights hotel accommodation and 500 € travel costs covered.