Over the past 50 years, EU competition law has developed into a substantial body of law. It constitutes directly applicable rules for companies, and as such they are of immediate concern to business lawyers and management. Similar rules apply in most countries in the world. Compliance has become extremely important in view of the huge fines that are imposed by the competition authorities, damage claims by customers or other third parties (“private enforcement”), prison sentences and fines for managers and other important consequences such as reputational damage. Moreover, merger control in multiple jurisdictions has become for companies to determine their growth strategy and M&A and joint venture policy. Companies that have a dominant market position are subject to special rules that may determine their market behaviour. Finally, EU State aid law dealing with all forms of government aid (from subsidies to guarantees and infrastructure prices) has developed into an important area of law for governments and companies alike. Reflecting the importance of competition policy, this course is devoted to the study of it and will provide the participants with a solid understanding of the main principles of all the relevant areas, including the liberalization of regulated sectors.
Objectives of the course
It can hardly be denied that competition law has become one of the most exciting and dynamic sub-fields of international business law. Competition law governs all market operators and structures their behaviour accordingly. Technology giants such as Apple, Samsung or Microsoft, large pharmaceutical or chemicals companies such as Akzo Nobel or BASF, telecommunications operators such as KPN, services providers (e.g. American Airlines and Ryanair or Otis, Schindler and Kone in elevator maintenance), breweries such as ABInbev, former state-owned companies such as Lufthansa, Deutsche Bahn and NS and Member States such as France aiming to support the upgrading of its football stadiums in preparation for UEFA matches… All those very different private and public businesses have more or less recently been subject to EU competition law scrutiny. As such, EU competition law basically regulates the global conduct of businesses across all different sectors alike.
This course outlines the different techniques EU competition law relies upon to structure businesses’ market behaviour. To that extent, it first outlines the goals of competition law and the legal concepts relied upon to attain those goals. By emphasizing the need for ‘workable competition’ within the ‘internal market’, EU competition law establishes a level playing field within which businesses and Member States can remain active in the marketplace. In doing so, competition law makes a distinction between techniques directly addressing private market operators and techniques structuring state intervention in the marketplace. In both instances, EU bodies have been endowed with significant enforcement and sanctioning powers (lecture 1).
The course subsequently addresses those different techniques in more detail. It distinguishes between the prohibition and regulation of restrictive practices (lecture 2), the prohibition and regulation of abuse of a dominant economic position (lecture 3), the ex ante regulation of envisaged mergers and acquisitions (lecture 4) and the regulation of state interventions in the marketplace (lecture 5). The seminars following upon each lecture are meant for you to practice those techniques in (semi-)real life business settings. To that extent, we will discuss hypothetical and real life case situations that will invite you to think like a competition lawyer.
At the end of this course, you will be able to evaluate to what extent particular market behaviour can be potentially captured by the rules and principles of EU competition law. At the same time, you will have gained insight into the particular legal assessments required in competition law, as compared to other fields of EU law. The interplay between law, economics and policy and the role of lawyers in that regard will especially have become clear.
The following achievement levels apply with regard to the course:
- identify, distinguish and apply the six key concepts relied upon in EU competition law (undertaking, competition, interstate trade, market, restriction and abuse). (Seminar case assignments and case note)
- choose among one or more of the five techniques EU competition law relies upon in a particular case situation (restrictive practices, abuse of dominant position, merger control or state intervention through aid or state-owned businesses) and to argue in favour of a case solution accordingly. (Seminar case assignments)
- summarise the different formats of EU and national law interactions throughout the different competition law branches. (Essay question exam)
- independently find the most relevant Commission decisions and cases that help you develop a well-structured competition law analysis of a given problem. (Seminar case assignments)
- assess critically the role of law and its limits versus economics and policy analysis across the different techniques of EU competition law (Exam essay question)
The timetable of this course can be found in uSis.
Mode of instruction
- Number of (2 hour) lectures: 5
- Names of lecturers: to be announced
- Required preparation by students: preparation of prescribed literature
- Number of (2 hour) seminars: 5
- Names of instructors: to be announced
- Required preparation by students: preparation of prescribed literature, case studies and any other assignments.
1. Seminar attendance is compulsory, students may miss up to one class. Students can only attend the seminar if they submit in advance their written answers to the exercises through blackboard.
2. As part of the final examination students are required to submit a written hypothetical case assignment. The grade for this case note will count for 20% towards the final grade.
3. Anexam will be held at the end of this course. This exam will in principle be written; depending on the number of students however, an oral exam may be organized in the alternative. The exam comprises three major questions, each consisting in a significant amount of sub-questions. Two questions will be presented as a hypothetical case study and one will be a more theoretical essay question on a topic discussed during the lectures and seminars. The exam grade will count towards 80% of your overall mark in this course.
- Students who fail the exam are entitled to sit a re-examination. Depending on the number of students failing the exam, the re-sit may take the form of an oral exam.
- The 20% hypothetical case assignment will remain valid for the re-sit. The case note itself cannot be retaken.
If a student has not passed the course by the end of the academic year, partial grades for written exam or paper are no longer valid.
A hard copy of the paper will need to be handed in during the last class and an electronic version will have to be uploaded on blackboard using safe assign.
Areas to be tested within the exam
The examination syllabus consists of the required reading (literature) for the course, the course information guide and the subjects taught in the lectures, the seminars and all other instructions which are part of the course.
More information on this course is offered in Blackboard.
Obligatory course materials
Piet-Jan Slot and Martin Farley, An Introduction to Competition Law, 2nd edition (Hart Publishing, Oxford 2017). Note: this book is available from April 2017.
Course information guide:
- to be announced on Blackboard
- to be announced on Blackboard
Recommended course materials
- To be announced on blackboard
Students have to register for courses and exams through uSis.
- Co-ordinator: Dr. Ben Van Rompuy
- Work address: KOG, room B1.24
- Telephone number: 071-527 1344
- Email: b.van.rompuy@@law.leidenuniv.nl
- Institute: Public Law
- Department: European Law
- Room number secretary: KOG, room B1.21
- Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 9.00 – 17.00
- Telephone number secretary: +31 (0)71 527 3596
- Email: email@example.com
Anyone interested in registering for this course as part of a Contractual Programme (Contractonderwijs), which includes examination, will find further information regarding costs, application and registration, conditions etc. on the website of Juridisch PAO (Legal postgraduate education). Take notice of the admission requirements.