The Maximum Level of Fines Restricts the Effect of European Competition Law
In 2006, the fining guidelines for competition law infringements were completely renewed. The aim of this reform was twofold: on the one hand to decrease the incentive for cartelization and on the other hand to increase the likelihood of cartel detection. The article studies how company’s decision for or against a cartel is influenced by these guidelines. We show that due to the maximum level of fines – which refers to the worldwide group turnover - an effective deterrence level can be achieved only for those companies, which realize just a small part of their turnover in the relevant market. Their incentive to blow the whistle increases with the cartel duration. This leads to a rising instability of cartels where one member generates only a small part of its turnover in the relevant market. In contrast, the deterrence level for companies that realize a large part of their sales in the relevant market is quite low due to the maximum level of fines. The article gives a short overview of the risk factor competition law – from a company perspective. We illustrate how the expenditures related to cartel law infringements can be calculated. Further on, the minimum profit margins that are necessary for an economically advantageous cartel are determined. We show that for certain types of cartels already small rates of return are sufficient to make cartel participation attractive.