The Legal Professional Privilege in Competition Law Cases – A Key Element in Protecting the Proper Administration of Justice

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Helene Andersson


The legal professional privilege is an important principle underpinning the EU judicial system as it ensures the proper administration of justice, procedural efficiency and protects fundamental rights such as a client’s defence rights and the right to privacy enshrined in Articles 47 and 7 of the Charter. In competition cases, the European Commission has relied on an old ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union (the ECJ), and only acknowledged one of these aims – the protection of the client’s defence rights. While the ECJ has recently received the chance to align the EU standard to that of the ECHR by broadening the scope of protection, the Commission appears unwilling to abandon its previous stance. It is important that the Commission shoulders the responsibility to ensure a procedure that is fair, and which acknowledges the basic principles underpinning a society governed by the rule of law. The current approach breathes life into questions on the legitimacy of its actions and the appropriateness of letting it take on the roles of enforcer, prosecutor and judge in competition cases, where companies not only risk having to pay fines of up to ten percent of their annual turnover, but now also appear to have to face the threat of divestitures should the Commission find that they are infringing the EU competition rules.

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