I. Introduction 1. The basic task of a merger control regulator is to identify and prevent the implementation of anti-competitive transactions, while clearing competitively benign deals in the least intrusive way consistent with this. Almost all critical debate around merger control policy centres on the first part of the job: To identify the anti-competitive transactions, should regulators apply a “consumer welfare” or a “total welfare” standard? When (if ever) should efficiencies outweigh predicted price increases? Are “portfolio effects” likely to bring about anti-competitive outcomes? Etc. But the regulator’s attention to the little-discussed second objective—streamlining the review process, particularly for non-problematic deals—affects far more transactions and is surely the more
This article presents the results of an empirical analysis of how long EU Merger Regulation reviews, and in particular pre-notifcation discussions, actually take. Our research shows that pre-notification and overall review periods for all types of cases—Short Form/simplifed, normal Phase I, and Phase II—have increased steadily and substantially over the last 15-25 years, despite some Commission efforts to minimise the burden of its review on notifying parties. The article outlines some reasons why EC merger reviews are taking longer and longer, points out a few adverse consequences of this trend for the business and legal communities, and offers some suggestions for ways the Commission might streamline the notification and review process.
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