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June 28, 2006

EU antitrust regulators grab a bigger stick

Posted by David Hunter at 7:56 AM ET.

Aoife White at the AP:

The European Union raised the limits Wednesday on antitrust fines it can levy on companies who form cartels or abuse a monopoly, saying it needed to send a clear signal to deter businesses from breaking EU competition rules.

These new fine limits will apply to every company charged with antitrust abuse after the new guidelines are published in the next two months.

The Commission raised the threshold for maximum fines to 30 percent of a company’s annual sales for every year it broke EU law — up from the current limit of 10 percent of total annual turnover.

EU regulators said part of the fine — an “entry fee” may also be charged, no matter how long the company violated EU rules. This fee would be based on 15 percent to 25 percent of yearly sales during the entire time span of the illegal behavior. It will apply to cartels and to other types of antitrust abuse, they said.

Repeat offenders will also face higher fines than in the past. Until now, the Commission has increased fines by 50 percent but now it will be able to charge as much as 100 percent more.

I guess they need some walking around money. None of this is directly applicable to the fines on Microsoft that are likely coming in July, but now we know what to look forward to if and when the European Commission goes after Microsoft again.

Filed under Antitrust, General Business, Governmental Relations, Legal, Microsoft

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