Resource Centre > Glossary > Competition law of the EU

Also referred to as antitrust law, it covers two prohibition rules set out in the EC Treaty:

  • "First, agreements between two or more firms which restrict competition are prohibited by Article 81 of the Treaty, subject to some limited exceptions. This provision covers a wide variety of behaviours. The most obvious example of illegal conduct infringing Article 81 is a cartel between competitors (which may involve price-fixing or market sharing); For more information on cartels see the cartels section.
  • Second, firms in a dominant position may not abuse that position (Article 82 of the EC Treaty). This is for example the case for predatory pricing aiming at eliminating competitors from the market.

The Commission is empowered by the Treaty to apply these prohibition rules and enjoys a number of investigative powers to that end (e.g. inspection in business and non business premises, written requests for information, etc). It may also impose fines on undertakings who violate EU antitrust rules. Since 1 May 2004, all national competition authorities are also empowered to apply fully the provisions of the Treaty in order to ensure that competition is not distorted or restricted. National courts may also apply these prohibitions so as to protect the individual rights conferred to citizens by the Treaty." (source: website of DG COMP).

See our 'Legislation section' on further details concerning the source of EU antitrust rules; see also Antitrust Enforcement in our Current Issues section, as well as the impact of enforcement policy on the issue of 'collective redress'.