How to Throw the Baby out with the Bath Water. A Few Remarks on the Currently Accepted Scope of Civil Liability for Antitrust Damages
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The Damages Directive introduces the right to ‘full compensation’ and the principle of ‘joint and several liability’ for antitrust damages (Article 3(1) and Article 11(1) respectively). The Directive does not determine the type of damage that can be awarded in civil proceedings. In theory, there are thus no barriers to establish punitive, multiple or other damages. In practice, it is rather unlikely that such types of damages will be awarded after the implementation of the Directive due to the ban placed on overcompensation in its Article 2(3). This paper will try to decode the concept of ‘full compensation’ and ‘joint and several liability’ in light of the Damages Directive as well as EU jurisprudence. An adequate understanding of these terms is without a doubt one of the key preconditions of correctly implementing the Directive and, consequently, a condition for making EU (competition) law effective. While on the one hand, a limitation of the personal scope of civil liability can currently be observed in EU law (covering both legislation and case law), a broadening of its subject-matter scope is visible on the other hand. With reference to the personal scope of civil liability, the Directive itself limits the applicability of the joint and several responsibility principle towards certain categories of infringers: small & medium enterprises (Article 11(2)) and immunity recipients in leniency (Article 11(3)). Considering the subject-matter scope of civil liability, the acceptance by the Court of Justice of civil liability for the ‘price umbrella effect’ should be highlighted. In addition, the principle of the ‘passing-on defence’ can also be regarded as a manner of broadening the scope of civil liability for antitrust damage (Article 12–16). The paper will present an overview of the scope of civil liability for antitrust damages (in its personal and subject-matter dimension) in light of the Directive and EU jurisprudence. The paper’s goal is to assess if the applicable scope will in fact guarantee the effective development of private competition law enforcement in EU Member States. This assessment, as the very title of this paper suggests, will be partially critical.
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