The pursuit of hard-core cartel activity represents the core aspect of modern antitrust. Since the late 1990s, increased recognition of dangers posed by cartelization has led European competition regulators to initiate organizational changes and to modernize procedures and practice to combat cartels. However, has policy toward hard-core cartels softened in a harsher economic environment from late 2008? This article provides a comparative examination of the approach towards cartels by the European Commission and, at the national level, by the German Bundeskartellamt. It argues that, on current evidence, any doubts about how far the heightened anti-cartel drive could be sustained in the economic downturn post 2008 should be put aside. While some adjustments to fines have been made to take into account inability to pay in exceptional circumstances, no special provisions have been introduced to allow crisis cartels and it appears that the legislation continues to be interpreted strictly by the competition authorities as before.
- cartel policy, European Union, Germany