Overzealous antitrust enforcement in Spain?
A couple of days ago Nicolas wrote a post reporting the concerns expressed by some experts in relation to a possible enforcement gap in Italy in light of the fact that the Autoritá Garante has been mainly focusing on investigating unfair competition cases rather than on pursuing antitrust cases. Apparently, some of the lawyers who attended the conference at which Nicolas was present bemoaned these “dark times for antitrust in Italy”.
The situation in Italy, if true, appears to be in stark contrast to the one we have in Spain, where the Comisión Nacional de la Competencia is currently showing that it is one of the most
overzealous enforcers in international antitrust.
In the past 18 months the CNC has initiated 70 formal investigations concerning all sorts of practices in a wide array of markets, and has adopted 20 fining decisions (click here for more details; I know there´s even an inside-joke at an american firm in Brussels which is based on spotting new investigations undertaken by the CNC). These numbers don’t include neither informal investigations nor proceedings initiated by regional competition authorities. Who said Spaniards aren’t productive?
From a strictly numerical point of view, these are clearly not at all dark times for antitrust in Spain. Indeed, there’s plenty of work for Spanish competition lawyers.
However, when looked at from a qualitative standpoint, the story seems a bit different (next week I´ll post a comment on the reasoning of the
joke major decision adopted last week sanctioning electricity companies with 61 million euros and you´ll see what I mean). The CNC has skilled staff but pehaps their willingness to have on their plate more than what they can deal with is at the root of some questioable prioritization decisions and of some (too many) weak reasonings (which nevertheless generally withstand judicial review…)
The CNC must be credited for its very good job in bringing competition law issues to the forefront of the public debate, but it also needs to understand that Spanish over-enforcement is an undesirable and harmful to vigorous competition on the merits as the alleged Italian under-enforcement.