The EC antitrust prohibitions are regularly invoked in private litigation as a shield. Private parties also play an important role in public antitrust enforcement through complaints to the competition authorities. However, in marked contrast with the situation in the US, private actions for damages or for injunctive relief are rare. This article argues that this situation is a desirable one. Indeed, from the perspective of ensuring that the antitrust prohibitions are not violated, public antitrust enforcement is inherently superior to private enforcement, because of more effective investigative and sanctioning powers, because private antitrust enforcement is driven by private profit motives which fundamentally diverge from the general interest in this area, and because of the high cost of private antitrust enforcement. There is not even a case for a supplementary role for private enforcement, as the adequate level of sanctions and the adequate number and variety of prosecutions can be ensured more effectively and at a lower cost through public enforcement. It also seems difficult to justify an increased role for private antitrust enforcement in Europe by the pursuit of corrective justice, as there does not appear to be a clear social need for such action, and because truly achieving corrective justice in the antitrust context is in practice a very difficult task.
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