Utrecht, Netherlands

European Competition Law and Economics: Cartels and Other Evils

when 5 July 2021 - 9 July 2021
language English
duration 1 week
credits 1.5 EC
fee EUR 550

This course deals with the effects of European Competition Law on the behavior of businesses in the European Union (EU). An effective common market within the EU requires a fair and undistorted competition. Hence the European Commission (EC) vigorously attacks cartels and abuses of power by monopolists. A recent example of a Cartel is the ‘cooperation’ between 7 seven international banks – Barclays, RBS, Citigroup, JPMorgan, and MUFG by participating in a foreign exchange spot trading cartel. In this case the European Commission imposed a total fine of € 1.07 billion in 2019.

European Competition Law and Economics: Cartels and Other Evils logo
This course deals with the effects of European Competition Law on the behavior 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, section 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.”

A recent example of a cartel is the ‘cooperation’ between seven international banks Barclays, RBS, Citigroup, JPMorgan and MUFG, by participating in a foreign exchange spot trading cartel. In this case the European Commission imposed a total fine of € 1.07 billion in 2019.

In a less recent case, the Dutch beer market was found to be dominated by a cartel as well, from 1996 until 1998. The European Court of Justice confirmed on 19 December 2012 that Heineken had to pay a fine of € 198 million euro and Bavaria a fine of € 21 million.

In a 449-page report of October 6th 2020 lawmakers from US House of Representatives, accused tech giants Facebook, Amazon, Google abuses of "monopoly power". Such abuse of power also occurs in the European Union. On 20th March 2019 the EU Commission issued a press-release which had a following headline: "Antitrust: Commission fines Google €1.49 billion for abusive practices in online advertising".

However, the central theme in this course is the public enforcement of European competition law. The aim is to give students insights into how unfair competition occurs in practice, how this can be prevented and how to react if unfair competition is detected within a company. During the last day of the course, students will have to present a paper in which they will have to comment on (the effects of) a particular cartel.

We haven’t decided yet whether this course will be in a physical, online or hybrid version. That will depend on the course of events due to the Covid-19 crisis. The price for participating online will be a hundred euro lower than the price for participating in the physical classroom. At first, this course will only be offered as the physical course, if this changes we will send an e-mail to all students who have already applied for this programme.

Course leader

Prof. dr. Wilco J. Oostwouder

Target group

Ambitious advanced Bachelor and Master students (law, economics) who are anxious to know more about (the public enforcement of) European Competition Law and Economics and compliance with anti-trust rules.

Course aim

To give advanced bachelor students (Law, Economics) an insight into the backgrounds of (the public enforcement of) European Competition Law and Economics and its effects on the behavior of businesses, and vice versa, and to make them familiar with the career opportunities after a Master in Law & Economics or Economics & Law.

Fee info

EUR 550: Course + course materials
EUR 200: Housing fee: optional

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