“Speaking to reporters today, European Union Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia said that his organization would settle with e-book publishers as long as they “remove all of our objections.” Reuters was first to report on the news.”
I think there is a misconception that U.S. observers often find when they report about European Competition cases. The publishers and the Competition Commissioner are by no means on the same level. Almunia is responsible for enforcing the European competition rules from the European Treaties. We expect market players to comply with our competition authorities and their statements of objections.
Maybe the whole process has to be staged in a different way and competition authorities granted new powers to make them gain more respect. The bullying against our competition authorities and distortion of communications is not acceptable. But it’s also a matter of staging on the EU side.
For instance, it is difficult to communicate the difference between “the EU”, “the Commission” and a specific Competition enforcement procedures. When Almunia starts an investigation that is certainly completely different from his colleague Vivianne Reding objecting against Facebook, or Neelie Kroes complaining about a search engine. Furthermore, a settlement is an opportunity of the plaintiff to avoid sanctions. It is also often overlooked that these cases are usually put forward by complaints of competitors.
DG Competition should rethink its communication which would include completely remodeling and relabeling of the administrative process. For instance, when it’s not communicated Almunia against Bamazonk, but Almunias ruling on the complaint of Yazoo against Bamazonk, transatlantic journalists would get a harder time to interpret is wrongly. There are other symbolic acts to communicate competition enforcement better for instance seizure of evidence. When the press reported about searches in the main offices and investigators carrying folders, that would grant the authority more respect by the affected business players. If such means are not available yet, it is time to introduce them.