N°4 : Les procédures négociées en droit de la concurrence
Quatrièmes rencontres de droit économique du CREDECO, Nice, 4 juin 2010
Sous la direction de : Laurence Boy, Frédéric Marty, Patrice Reis
Après quelques années de mise en œuvre des procédures « négociées » en droit de
la concurrence, une analyse de ces procédures paraissait d’autant plus nécessaire que leur introduction a souvent été décidée sans un examen préalable approfondi. La comparaison souvent faite avec les expériences similaires aux Etats-Unis est particulièrement délicate car les procédures de négociation s’inscrivent dans des cadres processuels différents de part et d’autre de l’Atlantique.
Le propos des Quatrièmes rencontres de droit économique du CREDECO a pour objet une première analyse des procédures telles qu’elles sont mises en œuvre en France et dans l’Union européenne, et conduit à une large ouverture sur des questions plus générales soulevées par les contentieux économiques.
Sur le plan de la théorie juridique, ce thème illustre à nouveau la complexité et la subtilité du droit de la concurrence au sens de droit de la régulation de la concurrence. Il illustre, en effet, l’obligation pour le juriste de construire des équilibres souvent savants et fragmentaires sous l’égide des trois logiques difficilement conciliables que sont la théorie économique, le droit de la concurrence et la (ou les) politique(s) de la concurrence.L’intérêt de ces journées tient en l’originalité de la démarche choisie qui résulte de regards croisés et ce, à deux points de vue : regards croisés entre économistes et juristes, regards croisés entre universitaires et praticiens. Il s’agissait, en effet, de mettre en perspective les tentatives de conciliation entre deux objectifs de valeurs apparemment aussi dignes d’intérêt l’un que l’autre : la recherche de l’efficacité économique et la sécurité juridique.
SUMMARY IN ENGLISH
Introductory comments (L. Boy)
Over the last few years, US and EU competition law authorities have
passed several reforms aimed at enhancing efficiency and effectiveness.
These reforms, based on private enforcement, settlements and leniency procedures give a new and important place to firms in enforcement procedures. However, they have also triggered many debates. Obviously, to be successful, the enforcement mechanisms implied in these negotiated procedures require a lot of mutual confidence between the authorities
and the parties.
Negotiated procedures in competition law: Legal and economic perspectives (F. Marty and P. Reis)
Leniency programs, settlements and other forms of transactions are increasingly used in competition policy regarding both anticompetitive agreements and abuses of dominance. Such tools aim at improving the effectiveness and the efficiency of competition rules enforcement. Their fundamental purpose is to reinforce the dissuasion of anticompetitive practices by allowing competition authorities to decide more quickly, easily and with more legal certainty, to give a more accurate answer to competitive concerns and to concentrate their limited resources on cases especially likely to harm competition. Despite their common denomination of “negotiated procedures”, the real place of negotiation is very different from one procedure to another. In addition, the articulation of the different procedures might give opportunities for strategic uses that could, finally, undermine their initial purposes.
Implementation of negotiated procedures: Economic aspects (A. Perrot)
Leniency programs, settlements and other forms of negotiated procedures take place at various stages of case handling by competition authorities. Therefore, the information available to the parties varies also according to the time a decision on entering into a negotiated procedure is taken. It is thus interesting to analyze these various procedural steps in the light of incentives given to parties for applying for any procedure. The paper analyzes both the various types of conflicts that may occur between the Authority and the parties regarding these procedures, and the need to carefully handle them with a view to maintain the effectiveness of negotiated procedures.
Negotiated procedures and firms strategies (V. Sélinsky)
Leniency programs, settlements and other forms of transaction have the same purpose. It is to facilitate relations between competition authorities and firms in order to speed up case handling and to ensure a more efficient enforcement of competition law. The French Competition Authority and the EU Commission have developed similar practices. With fines increasing, firms are worried about legal uncertainty. As a result firms are developing new strategies, both defensive and aggressive ones. In this new situation, the viable solution for a firm is a strategy that addresses both concerns at the same time: reduce the sanctions and comply with reasonable requirements of competition law.
The pertinence of commitments in competition cases: An economic analysis and an illustration with the iPhone case (O. Sautel)
Commitments are increasingly used in antitrust policy regarding abuses
of dominance. We analyze the impact of commitments on firms and consumers surplus taking into consideration the pro or anticompetitive effect of the alleged conduct and the assumed probability of mistake by the competition authority. We show that the firm's participation constraint ensures an efficient auto-selection of anticompetitive conduct in the general case of low probability of mistake. However, this efficient auto-selection could be reversed where firms' incentives are biased. We illustrate this risk in the case of commitments proposed by Apple France and Orange in 2010 concerning the iPhone wholesale exclusivity granted
by Apple to Orange in France. The existence of interim measures and the hold-up risk between parties artificially increase Orange's incentives to propose commitments. The risk of a socially inefficient commitment therefore increases.
Bargaining over merger remedies: An economist’s perspective (P. Bougette)
This article aims at studying the economic dimension of the bargaining process in merger control by using the latest results in the literature. After recalling the classic typology of merger remedies, we look at what is at stake in the negotiation between merging parties and the competition authority. The tradeoff between merger remedies, efficiency gains expected from the file, and the length of the authority’s investigation is at the core of the bargaining process. Lastly, assessing the success of the negotiation provides insight into how best to implement merger remedies.
European negotiated procedures and French nolo contendere procedure (D. Bosco)
Contemporary competition law has given birth to two sisters. They are not really twins but look like very similar. One is the French nolo contendere procedure also referred to as a plea of no contest. The other is the European settlement procedure. In most competition laws, we can find these two new procedures. However, nobody knows how they will develop as regards their quality and defects.
European and French leniency programs (J.- C. Roda)
Leniency programs in competition law allow firms to be fully or partially exempted from fines. However, there is a doubt about the real nature of this leniency. Indeed, a firm, which wants to benefit from leniency, has to be the first to denounce an infringement of competition law. It must reveal the existence of a cartel agreement and bring sufficient evidence to the authorities. Paradoxically, therefore, leniency appears as an effective tool for competition authorities. Furthermore, leniency is primarily used as an instrument for monitoring and detecting infringements in the context of the fight against major cartels. It has an incentive effect on firms. As a consequence, a real race between firms could be triggered by such an incentive. Consequently, these programs help competition authorities to fulfill their mission. These two features, enhance detection and investigation, which are the distinctive characteristics of leniency programs in competition law.
Final and prospective comments (J.-Y. Chérot)
This meeting contributes to scientific progress in one of the most evolving fields of competition law, that of negotiated procedures. Leniency programs, settlements and other forms of negotiated procedures (French nolo contendere procedure and EU settlement) are more and more frequently used, and are gaining maturity. Negotiated procedures constitute a topic of deep importance for both competition policy, and for procedural law and legal theory. It is thus interesting to analyze and monitor these various procedures both in the light of the incentives given to parties to use any one of them, and with a view to uphold the rules of general competition and the fundamental legal safeguards of a fair and effective procedure.