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Antitrust control

The Treaty on the Functioning of the EU (TFEU) prohibits antitrust (anti-competitive) behaviour in the form of:

  • agreements and business practices which restrict competition (Article 101),
  • abuse of dominant positions (Article 102).

Article 101 forbids agreements (i.e. cartels) where 2 or more firms try to restrict competition. Agreements may be horizontal (between competitors at the same level of the supply chain fixing prices or limiting production) or vertical (such as between a manufacturer and a distributor). Under Article 101(3), restrictive agreements may be permitted, however, if they generate more positive than negative effects (if they improve production or product distribution, for example).

Article 102 prohibits a firm abusing its dominant position (i.e. a substantial market share) by charging unduly low prices to prevent others entering the market or discriminating between commercial partners.

The Commission may impose large fines on firms for such illegal business practices. Since 2004, national competition authorities can enforce EU antitrust rules on agreements and dominance abuse in the same way as the Commission.