Anti-competitive behaviour adopted by certain businesses often directly affects other businesses, which suffer the consequences either as a competitor in the same market or as an economic operator in an up- or downstream market.
Businesses that believe they have suffered damage can contact the competition council (Conseil de la concurrence) and lodge a complaint, stating the details of the facts denounced and any elements of proof they have.
Any business can approach the competition council if they believe to be a victim of anti-competitive behaviour.
Any natural or legal person claiming a legal interest can refer to the council.
Lodging the complaint
Before lodging a complaint, businesses that have strong suspicions of anti-competitive practices, but fear reprisal, can meet informally with the council.
They can lodge a complaint with the competition council together with all the documents proving the facts denounced.
The complaint must include the following elements:
- a description of the facts denounced: it must be as detailed and exhaustive as possible. They must indicate which market is concerned, the products and services in question and the market shares held by the different economic operators concerned;
- an accusation of the facts denounced: material description and, where possible, the legal definition of these facts (e.g. whether it is an agreement, an abuse of dominant position, etc.)
- the elements proving the presumed existence of the facts denounced: the person lodging the complaint must add all the material elements attesting to his statement (e.g. detailed figures, mail, agreements, contracts, meeting reports, etc.).
After the complaint has been lodged, the council designates a councillor who will be in charge of conducting an investigation by means of:
- simple requests for information;
- decisions to make formal requests for information;
- hearings of third parties;
- inspections, with or without search and seizure, in business or non-business premises, sites and means of transport;
At the end of the investigation:
- if no offence is established, the council closes the investigation;
if an offence is established, the council communicates, in a hearing, the alleged offences to the concerned businesses accused of anti-competitive practices. The concerned parties are asked to state their case and, where applicable, the council will make a ruling which aims at putting an end to the anti-competitive practice:
- either it makes binding voluntary commitments to cease such practices, and/or;
- it enforces restrictive behavioural or structural measures, and/or;
- it takes disciplinary actions agains the responsible businesses.
Requesting the adoption of conservatory measures
Any business that believes it is the victim of anti-competitive behaviour from another business may also contact the President of the council directly and request the adoption of conservatory measures. A decision to take conservatory measures can be taken rapidly in the absence of a full and detailed enquiry, but it is strictly governed by legislation:
- the business must have lodged a complaint in due form;
- the anti-competitive behaviour must cause serious, immediate and irreparable harm to the public economic order or to the plaintiff business's interests;
- the President of the council can only order measures necessary for dealing with an emergency and that are proportionate to the established offence.
These measures aim to put an end to extremely prejudicial behaviour whose continuation over an extended period could create an imbalance over the long term or definitively disrupt market competition.