Netherlands, Utrecht

European Competition Law and Economics: Cartels and Other Evils

when 2 July 2018 - 6 July 2018
language English
duration 1 week
credits 1.5 EC
fee EUR 600

This course deals with the effects of European Competition Law on the behaviour of businesses and governments in the European Union (EU). The course has a theoretical and practical component. Theoretical lectures are given by top-notch professors and lecturers in the field, after which participants will take part in an antitrust mock trial and visit one of the Netherland's largest law firms. The course covers cartels, cartel enforcement, and public procurement.

This course deals with the effects of European Competition Law on the behaviour of businesses in EU countries. An effective common market within the EU requires fair and undistorted competition. Hence the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union “TFEU” includes strict rules to tackle unfair competition. As an extremely broad concept of the law, article 101 TFEU, for example, stipulates that “All agreements, decisions by associations of companies and concerted practices, which have as their object or effect, either actual or potential, the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition, are prohibited.”

Consequently, the European Commission's DG Competition vigorously attacks cartels within the European Union. According to its own view, cartels are highly detrimental for the following reason: “A cartel is a group of similar, independent companies which joint together to fix prices, to limit production or to share markets or customers between them. Instead of competing with each other, cartel members rely on each other’s agreed course of action, which reduces their incentives to provide new or better products and services at competitive prices. As a consequence, their clients (consumers or other businesses) end up paying more for less quality.”

In a recent case (Feb 2017) the European Commission has fined Campine, Eco-Bat Technologies and Recylex a total of €68 million for fixing prices for purchasing scrap automotive batteries, in breach of EU antitrust rules. From 2009 to 2012, four recycling companies took part in a cartel to fix the purchase prices of scrap lead-acid automotive batteries in Belgium, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. Unlike in most cartels where companies conspire to increase their sales prices, the four recycling companies colluded to reduce the purchase price paid to scrap dealers and collectors for used car batteries. By coordinating to lower the prices they paid for scrap batteries, the four companies disrupted the normal functioning of the market and prevented competition on price. A fourth company, Johnson Controls, was not fined because it revealed the existence of the cartel to the Commission.

The central theme in this course is the enforcement of European competition law and how it affects businesses and governments. The aim is to give students insights into how unfair competition occurs in practice, how it can be prevented and how to react if unfair competition is detected within a company. To that end, students will participate in a mock trial, and will visit a top law firm in the Netherlands to learn more about competition law in practice. During the last day of the course, students will give a short presentation in which they will have to comment on (the effects of) a famous cartel in their home country. This presentation can be transformed into a paper, which will make up the final grade for the course. Of course, the Summer Course has a social program as well, in which students discover Utrecht and the University’s facilities.

This course connects very closely to the "Financial Law and Economics" course. Both course are included in the special track "Highlights of Law and Economics".

Course leader

Rebecca Larsen

Prof. Anna Gerbrandy

Willem Janssen LLM

Guest speakers from Utrecht University Public Economic Law group and from practice, such as competition authorities, companies and leading law firms.

Course aim

To give advanced bachelor and master students (Law, Economics) an insight into the public enforcement of European competition law and its effects on the behaviour of businesses, and vice versa, and to make them familiar with the career opportunities after a Master in Law & Economics. This course is also an excellent introduction to the Competition Law course of the Master Law & Economics at Utrecht University.

Credits info

1.5 EC
Certificate of Attendance

Fee info

EUR 600: Course + course materials
EUR 200: Housing

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