Volume 53 (2016) / Issue 5
Judicial control of the Commission’s complex economic appraisals in EU competition enforcement has long troubled both academics and practitioners. Despite the commonly shared feeling that the marginal standard of review, as applied by EU Courts, is not as deferential as one might fear, its operation remains shrouded in vagueness, due to difficulties in defining the notion of “complex economic evaluations” as the trigger for a less strict standard of control and due to the lack of a clear understanding as to the errors that may invalidate the Commission’s analysis. This article sheds light on the judicial scrutiny of complex economic assessments, and demonstrates that (a) complex economic evaluations may come in different varieties and should not be seen as a uniform group, (b) the manifest error of assessment test is not an intangible formula of judicial scrutiny, contingent on one’s subjective perception of “manifestness”, but targets four specific defects in the Commission’s analysis: failure to correctly assess the material facts of the case, failure to take into account a relevant factor, taking into account an irrelevant factor that distorted the analysis, and failure to satisfy the standard of proof, and (c) EU Courts have three “aces” up their sleeve that may enable them to diminish the Commission’s margin of appreciation: economics, evidence review and Article 19(1) TEU.
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