Auditors: EU executive should initiate more anti-trust investigations

Alex Brenninkmeijer, ECA member

The European Commission should be more active in detecting problematic anti-trust and merger cases by launching more investigations on its own initiative, an EU watchdog found on Thursday.

The report by the European Court of Auditors - a body that checks how EU money is spent - finds that while generally the Commission had made good use of its anti-trust and merger tools, it had to step up its game in overseeing the EU market.

In recent years, commission vice president Margrethe Vestager has spearheaded a series of infringement procedures against online giants, such as Facebook, Apple and Google, in a proclaimed effort to protect consumers across the bloc. The Commission acts as the EU competition watchdog.

Yet, the commission' main anti-trust work had been focused on reacting to complaints, the report finds. In an increasingly digitalized world, the Commission had to take a more proactive role in investigating cases, according to the report.

"However, it did not invest appropriate resources in monitoring markets," the report finds.

For Alex Brenninkmeijer, ECA member responsible for the report, this comes at a cost.

"There is a risk of under-investigation of cases," he said during a presentation of the report. "To be fully effective, a competition authority should not only react to complaints brought to its attention, but should also encourage the reporting of cases and be capable of detecting high-impact anti-trust cases on its own initiative," the report reads.

The Commission should also cooperate better with the EU countries, as most anti-trust cases and investigations take place on the national level, Brenninkmeijer said.

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