Recent statements by the European Commission's President Juncker and Competition Commissioner Vestager imply an increased focus on social aspects when enforcing the EU competition rules, signifying a possible shift that companies should take to heart. According to the Commissioner, competition authorities are to use their powers to act on people's most pressing concerns and to defend the interests of individuals. Companies can therefore expect quicker decision-making with an even stronger focus on consumer harm in areas that are the most relevant to consumers.
President Juncker first referred to the social side of competition in his State of the Union 2016 by stating that a fair playing field means that, in Europe, consumers are protected against cartels and abuse by powerful companies. And that every company, no matter how big or small, has to pay its taxes where it makes its profits. The European Commission is to oversee this fairness.
Competition Commissioner Vestager echoed President Juncker's sentiment in a recent speech, where she stated that many people are unhappy even though the world has never been better off. While freer trade has brought competition to markets that used to be closed, people don't want to simply be told that open markets makes them better off. They want to know that trade benefits everyone, not just the powerful few. And that is exactly what competition enforcement is about, according to Commission Vestager. Open markets can give everyone a fair share of the benefits of growth, as competition makes companies cut prices, provides people with more options and stimulates innovation. Competition enforcement also sends a message of fairness: public authorities defend the interests of individuals, not just those of big corporations. They are to use their powers to answer people's most pressing concerns. Commissioner Vestager therefore calls on public authorities to:
- be clear about how competition benefits people
- work on taking decisions more quickly
- work together to protect consumers throughout the world.
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