The Council Regulation (EC) 1/2003, on the implementation of the rules on competition laid down in articles 101 and 102 of the EC Treaty (henceforth «Regulation 1/2003») established a system of parallel competences, on the basis of which the European Commission (henceforth «Commission») and the National Competition Authorities (henceforth «NCA») can apply articles 101 and 102 of the EC Treaty.
The system of parallel competences provides the NCA with the power, pursuant to the national legislation, to apply articles 101 and 102 of the EC Treaty and the responsibility to efficiently divide the work and effectively allocate cases that will be investigated. Under this system, cases are either dealt by one NCA, or more (up to three), or the Commission. In most instances that a national authority receives a complaint or starts an ex officio procedure, it will remain in charge of the investigation. Where the re-allocation of a case is deemed necessary for the effective protection of competition, then three cumulative conditions should be met (a) the agreement or practice has substantial direct actual or foreseeable effects on competition within its territory, (b) the competition authority is able to effectively bring the entire infringement to an end and (c) it can gather the evidence required to prove infringement.
In order to ensure the efficient cooperation of the NCA and the Commission and thus far, the effective implementation of Regulation 1/2003, the NCA and the Commission together formed a network called European Competition Network (henceforth «ECN»), on the basis of which there will be discussions and exchange of views on the application of the European competition rules, for the creation and maintenance of a common competition culture in Europe. The members of the network will inform each other on pending investigations at the early stages of an investigation and more specifically, before or without delay after commencing the first formal investigative measure, in order to ensure an efficient and quick re-allocation of cases. An equivalent obligation exists before the issue of decisions whereby articles 101 and 102 of the EC Treaty are applied.
A competition authority, on the basis of article 13 of Regulation 1/2003, has the power to suspend proceedings or reject a complaint or part of it, on the ground that another authority is dealing with the case or has dealt with the case. Similarly, the initiation of proceedings by the Commission on the same case relieves the national competition authorities from their competence to apply community law.
The key element of the functioning of the network is the power of the NCA and the Commission to exchange and use information, which has been collected by them for the purpose of applying articles 101 and 102 of EC Treaty. The said provision includes safeguards for the protection of the natural and legal persons. Another innovation, contained in Regulation 1/2003, is the ability of a competition authority to ask another competition authority for assistance in order to collect information on its behalf.
Τhe national Courts have the power and obligation to apply the acquis communitaire, meaning that they have the power to apply articles 101 and 102 of the EC Treaty.
The new system created by Regulation 1/2003, allows for more enforcement of articles 101 and 102 of the EC Treaty that will increase the efficiency of the enforcement through the enhancement of the rule of the national competition authorities.