The European Commission's guidance on article 102TFEU: from inferno to paradiso?

Pinar Akman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The European Commission has for the first time issued a document expressing its official position on the enforcement of Article 102TFEU which prohibits the abuse of a dominant position on the Common Market. The Commission Guidance on enforcement priorities in applying Article 102TFEU to exclusionary abuses (adopted in December 2008) has ended a review of about four years. Given the increased enforcement of Article 102TFEU at the European level and the fact that many national provisions in the EU on unilateral conduct are modelled after Article 102TFEU, how the Commission intends to enforce Article 102TFEU is crucial for the application of competition law and the undertakings subject to it under European and/or national laws. The review period was preceded by severe criticisms of the Commission's approach to Article 102TFEU for protecting competitors instead of competition and for being insufficiently grounded in modern economic thinking. At the heart of the review and the discussions surrounding it lay the question of the objective of Article 102TFEU. Some, including the Directorate General for Competition claimed the objective to be ‘consumer welfare’, whereas some argued that ‘consumer welfare’ cannot be adopted as the objective at the expense of the protection of the competitive process. This article critically reviews the Commission Guidance, with an eye to assessing the ultimate objective of and the test of harm under Article 102TFEU. After discussing whether the Guidance indeed sets priorities, it examines the general approach of the Guidance to exclusionary conduct. It points out that despite there being some welcome novelties in the Guidance, there are also suggestions therein whose legitimacy and legality are questionable. Reflecting on the Guidance as a soft-law instrument, the article argues that although regarding the objective of Article 102TFEU, the Commission's apparent tendency towards ‘consumer welfare’ is not unlawful, the reform of Article 102TFEU to bring it more in line with modern economic and legal thinking seems to be far from complete.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)605-630
Number of pages26
JournalThe Modern Law Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010

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