Law and Practice
Over the last decade or so, the issue of collective action in a competition law context has received a considerable amount of attention amongst policymakers in the EU. Though collective action as a concept forms part of EU legal tradition and culture, its application, especially in the sphere of antitrust, remains an uncommon, and at the same time controversial, phenomenon. Antitrust enforcement in the large majority of Member States remains the quasi-exclusive preserve of the public authorities. It has been recognised that collective action may act as an effective complement to public enforcement by ‘accomplish[ing] the cessation or prevention of unlawful business practices which affect a multitude of claimants or the compensation for the harm caused by such practices’. Collective action may therefore, in principle, contribute directly to the overarching aims of deterrence and compensation, as well as that of encouraging the development of a competition culture. This is because a collective action should allow parties that would otherwise be unlikely to bring a claim to do so. Regarded as a fundamental tenet of an effective complement to the system of public antitrust enforcement, proposals on collective action have been at the core of recent policy papers, consultations and even draft legislation (the draft Directive) that have been promulgated by the Commission.
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