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It is immediately apparent from the reports in The Public Competition Enforcement Review that competition enforcement remains vigorous across the world. An overwhelming majority of authorities continue to prioritise anti-cartel enforcement and 2012 witnessed, in the United States and the EU, some of the highest cartel fines ever to be imposed in respect of individual cartels. Authorities in newer competition law regimes such as India, China and Taiwan followed suit. There was a common focus on illegal conduct within the context of trade associations and bid rigging.
Businesses suffer when markets are not working effectively and are victims of cartel behaviour as much as consumers and society as a whole. But caution must always be exercised to ensure that justifiable, even pro-competitive, conduct is not inadvertently swept up into an offending category. Many commercial activities – including information exchange, price parallelism and certain trade association activities – need to be analysed in context (and not simply presumed to be anti-competitive).
International cooperation and the convergence of laws and procedures are important objectives for many of the authorities covered in this book. There is a good reason for this. Not only did the infringing companies in many of the cartels uncovered have their headquarters outside the country imposing the penalties but, more generally, globalisation – particularly the transformation of regional markets into worldwide markets – has increased the propensity for conduct and transactions to be scrutinised by numerous competition authorities in parallel.
To ensure that the law and related procedures develop optimally, authorities must take stock of what is working (and what is not working), reflecting on achievements but also re-examining fundamentals. This Review makes a useful contribution to the process of reflection with its timely and authoritative comments on the past year’s developments and trends.
However, ongoing reflection is needed now to ensure that there is a good understanding of how companies and governments respond to current economic challenges. Reflections in this post-crisis time will be essential for ensuring that business and regulators play their part in ensuring that the events leading to the global recession are not repeated. Surveying policies, objectives, enforcement and trends, The Public Competition Enforcement Review contributes to such reflections.