ARTICLE: EC antitrust and merger proceedings - European Commission - Interested parties - Third parties - natural and legal persons - Rights of defence - Case law of the European Court of Justice and Tribunal of First instance

Third parties rights in competition proceedings before the EC Commission

Three categories of actors coexist in most antitrust and merger proceedings before the European Commission. The principal ones are the Commission and the companies which are the subjects of its investigation and which may receive its objections. For this reason, the companies benefit from subjective rights and in particular from rights of defence. However, there is also a variety of other natural and legal persons with a role in the proceedings. These are the interested third parties, the complainants and other interested parties in merger proceedings. The analysis of their legal status is not yet perfectly complete nor sufficiently clear. This paper discusses the role of third parties and aims at shedding some light on their legal position. More specifically, it argues that third parties possess genuine subjective rights, but also that these rights derive primarily from their significance to the procedure. The paper draws the legal community’s attention to the fact that the contribution of third parties in achieving the best possible decision in each competition case is often significant, and sometimes determinant. Moreover, nowadays their influence is on the rise. This trend, largely originating in the case law of the European Courts, is expected to continue and to grow in the future.

*This article is an automatic translation of the original article, provided here for your convenience. Read the original article. 1. A community of law constitutes a coherent system for the protection of a plurality of legal interests and objectives whose rules are predetermined and presumed to be known in principle. They benefit from a binding force that results from the social consensus around their respect. 2. In such a community, it is difficult to detect rights - the immediate protectors of the various interests and objectives served - that are absolute in nature. Rights are often in competition with each other when they serve opposing objectives. As a result, the system generates many reconciling parameters. For this reason, in order to understand the content of each right and

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Serge Durande, Aitor Montesa Lloreda, Third parties rights in competition proceedings before the EC Commission, December 2005, Concurrences N° 4-2005, Art. N° 455, pp. 34-44.

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