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Anchoring the Consumer: Legitimacy and Accountability in Competition Law


This proposal offers interdisciplinary, empirical and comparative research into the legitimacy and accountability problems facing EU competition law. EU competition law has gone through a significant reform process orchestrated by the European Commission. The Commission’s overarching goal in this process was to place ‘consumer welfare’ at the centre of the enforcement of competition rules. In contrast to the strong consumer focus in the design of substantive rules, consumers play a very limited role in the process of the making and enforcement of EU competition rules. Firstly, institutions representing consumer/citizen interests, such as the European Parliament and civil society, have been largely absent in the process leading to reforms. Secondly, the reforms increased economic technicality and the Commission’s administrative discretion in the enforcement of competition rules at the expense of judicial and parliamentary oversight. The limited ex ante consumer participation jeopardises the legitimacy of EU competition law, whereas the limited ex post judicial and parliamentary control impedes accountability. The voluminous law and economics literature of competition law focuses almost exclusively on substantive questions, turning a blind eye to legitimacy and accountability problems. Against this background, the proposed project will study the legitimacy and accountability problems in EU competition law and potential solutions for these problems using delegation theory as the main analytical framework. For methodology, the project will use empirical research of the role of consumer organisations and parliamentary committees, legal analysis of judicial review standards, and comparative research of the US antitrust regime that provided the main inspiration for the reform agenda. By filling an important gap in the literature, the project will contribute to developing mechanisms for firmly anchoring consumers in the making and enforcement of EU competition rules.

Call for proposal

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Brownlow Hill 765 Foundation Building
L69 7ZX Liverpool
United Kingdom
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
€ 100 000
Administrative Contact
Janette Ryan (Ms.)