As is the purpose of the advent season, 2019 has been a remarkable year of renewal and reflection for competition authorities around the world, including the European Commission.
In Europe, 2019 was a year of renewal because the ECN+ Directive (Directive (EU) 2019/1) entered into force and the two-year deadline for its transposition started running. This Directive seeks to provide competition authorities of the EU Member States with the necessary tools to more effectively enforce competition, including independence, resources, and enforcement and fining powers. These tools represent exciting progress both for NCAs and for the Commission and their use will surely improve competition enforcement for everyone.
Year 2019 was also a year of discourse and reflection on how to better enforce competition law in order to achieve timely and effective interventions that can meet the ultimate objective of making markets work better. For the European Commission, and always as a useful complement to our enforcement actions, this reflection had been taking place already for some time with initiatives such as the “Shaping competition policy in the era of digitisation” conference in January 2019, a public consultation on the topic and an evaluation of merger control rules. This reflection process, however, reached its summit with the publication of the “Competition policy for the digital era” report in April. Commissioned by Commissioner Vestager and prepared by three independent advisers, the report navigates readers through the characteristics and problematics of issues such as platform ecosystems, data or killer acquisitions while also presenting certain solutions which, in the opinion of the authors, could help regulators better address the potential anti-competitive harm that could be derived from those issues.
Now that the year is almost over, we need to take stock of the lessons learned and put these lessons into practice. Pending investigations, new cases and also a new Commission in office all provide excellent opportunities to bring this advent renewal and reflection to a fruitful outcome.
Álvaro García-Delgado García is a case handler in Unit A.1 – Antitrust case support and policy, of the European Commission’s Directorate General for Competition (DG COMP).