Brian Hayes MEP today said that the European Commission’s refusal to establish target timeframes for its antitrust investigations is a clear example of double standards, given its strict stance on a timeframe for the Apple state aid recovery.
“In October, the European Parliament produced a draft report on competition policy calling for the Commission to establish target timeframes for its antitrust investigations. Yet when questioned about this point in an ECON Committee hearing on Thursday 9th November, the Commission refused to accept that this would be a positive step forward for competition investigations.
“This is a clear case of double standards when the Commission takes a tough stance on the Apple recovery timeline but is refusing to accept even target timeframes for its own investigations.
“This exemplifies that the decision to refer Ireland to the ECJ last month is a case of grandstanding for political purposes. The government has assured DG Competition on several occasions that Ireland will recover the alleged state aid.
“The Apple recovery amount is on an unprecedented scale – up to €15bn – by far the largest obligation the Commission has ever placed on a Member State. No single bank can hold such an amount and that is why the government needs to go through a complex process of establishing an escrow fund, which takes time and resources. Additionally, the calculation of the final amount takes a lot of effort and involves the re-calculation of corporate tax over 13 accounting periods for two separate companies.
“If the Commission is willing to take Ireland to court over recovery timelines, it should be able to adhere to the same standards and set target timeframes for the completion of antitrust investigations and state aid investigations.
“I am calling on the Commission to establish clear timeframes for every antitrust and state aid investigation undertaken. This would give certainty to businesses and Member States involved. As it stands, the Commission is not bound by any timeframes for its investigations which is simply not good enough.
“We’ve seen so many Commission investigations drag on for years. The ongoing Google investigation has lasted almost eight years, the investigation into Gazprom has lasted over six years and the Apple case itself lasted over three years. Timely conclusions to investigations would make for a more efficient competition policy in Europe.”