Relaxing whilst doing Competition Law is not an Oxymoron

Archive for March 15th, 2013

Lost in Translation

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[Please read this post with caution] Heard from a seasoned German-speaking Member of the Court of justice of the EU.

The fuzz about the object-effect dichotomy that has kept generations of EU competition lawyers busy would be a moot issue. We dumd: last year, at the GCLC, we devoted a full conference and book to this issue.

This is because this distinction arguably does not exist [following Hans, Petra and Rainer’s clarifications, I suspect this eminent person meant is “not really relevant”] in the German-language version of the Treaties. Hence the Court’s reluctance to consider effects in antitrust cases.

Puzzled by this assertion, I ran my investigation. At this juncture, I must mention that I am a complete German illiterate.

So here we go: I first consulted the wording of Article 101(1) of the Treaty in German:

“(1) Mit dem Binnenmarkt unvereinbar und verboten sind alle Vereinbarungen zwischen Unternehmen, Beschlüsse von Unternehmensvereinigungen und aufeinander abgestimmte Verhaltensweisen, welche den Handel zwischen Mitgliedstaaten zu beeinträchtigen geeignet sind und eine Verhinderung, Einschränkung oder Verfälschung des Wettbewerbs innerhalb des Binnenmarkts bezwecken oder bewirken, insbesondere”

Then I asked Google to translate this text to English:

“(1) The internal market incompatible and all agreements between undertakings, decisions by associations of undertakings and concerted practices which may affect trade between Member States and which have as their object the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition within the internal market and in particular those”

No trace of the word “effect“.

I did the same in French:

“(1) Le marché intérieur incompatibles et interdits tous accords entre entreprises, toutes décisions d’associations d’entreprises et toutes pratiques concertées qui sont susceptibles d’affecter le commerce entre États membres et qui ont pour objet d’empêcher, restreindre ou de fausser la concurrence au sein du marché intérieur et en particulier ceux”

Again, no trace of the word “effect“.

A weird finding. All the more so given that the official Treaty translation explicitly talks of “effect“.

So here I am, pondering whether I am making this up or if, as this distinguished Court Member hinted, there is a linguistic reason for the absence of serious effects analysis in the Court’s case-law.

Now, if the other language versions of the Treaty talk of “effect“, which version of the Treaty is the right one?

Gee, me completely lost in translation.

PS1: On this, I’d advise Google to manipulate its translation service, and reintroduce the “effect” word in all Treaty translations.

See below for more evidence (a print of my screen).


Written by Nicolas Petit

15 March 2013 at 9:33 am