PN230407E

Embargo: 10:00 Monday 23 April 2007

Contact: Owen Williams 020 7219 8659

LORDS EU COMMITTEE DISMISSES CBI CALLS FOR EU COMPETITION COURT

The House of Lords European Union Committee has today dismissed calls for the creation of a new EU Competition Court to hear appeals from European Commission decisions on the legality or otherwise of large cross-border company mergers.

Supporters of the proposals for a new court, including the CBI, argue that the current process, where appeals against European Commission decisions are heard in the Court of First Instance (CFI), is too slow and means proposed mergers collapse while the Court considers the Commission's decision. The fastest CFI decision on an appeal achieved so far is seven months, a lengthy delay that the Committee acknowledges can lead to the failure of proposed mergers due to uncertainty caused by the delay for the merging parties.

The Lords Committee argues that while the lengthy process of appealing against Commission decisions in the CFI is unsatisfactory, there is no evidence that a dedicated Competition Court would improve matters. They point out that any new court would face the same complex litigation that the CFI currently has to wade through and that a new court may actually slow the process by creating another level of appeal.

Rather than establish an EU Competition Court the Committee argues that the appeals process could be speeded up by changes to the way the CFI deals with merger cases. The Committee's recommendations include:

  • Improving the current procedures by encouraging firmer case management by judges and stricter deadlines.

  • Reducing the workload of the CFI by transferring trade mark cases to a judicial panel.

  • That the Commission be encouraged to consider the introduction of plea-bargaining in cartel cases, which might reduce the number and scope of appeals and hence the workload of the CFI.

Commenting, Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood, Chairman of the Committee, said:

"While we sympathise with the CBI's view that the appeals process in the Court of First Instance takes too long, we do not share their view that an EU Competition Court is the way forward.

"Any new court would need to make decisions on the same complex legal issues as the CFI and we have seen no evidence to suggest a new court would make the process any quicker.

"There is no magic panacea. But there are, we believe, means by which the current procedures can be improved. Equally, if not more importantly, it is necessary to find ways to reduce the current burdens of the CFI without prejudicing the rights of the parties concerned. We hope that both the Commission and the Court will respond positively to the recommendations in our Report."

Notes to Editors

1. The Report An EU Competition Court is published by The Stationery Office, House of Lords European Union Committee (Sub-Committee on Law and Institutions), 15th Report of 2006/7, HL Paper 75

2. The Report will be available online shortly after publication at: http://www.parliament.uk/parliamentary_committees/lords_s_comm_e.cfm

3. The Members of the Committee who conducted the inquiry were:

Lord Borrie

Lord Bowness

Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood (Chairman)

Lord Burnett

Lord Clinton-Davis

Lord Jay of Ewelme

Baroness Kingsmill

Lord Leach of Fairford

Lord Lester of Herne Hill

Lord Lucas

Lord Mance

Lord Norton of Louth

For copies of the report or to request further details, please contact Owen Williams, Committee Press Officer, on 020 7219 8659.

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