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European Competition Law and Economics: Cartels and Other Evils

Organizing institution
Utrecht University, Faculty of Law, Economics and Governance (UU)
Course code
Course fee (incl. housing)
€ 800
Advanced bachelor level

This course deals with the effects of European Competition Law on the behavior of businesses and governments in the European Union (EU). The course has a theoretical and a practical component. Theoretical lectures are given by top-notch Professors and lecturers in the field, after which participants will take part in an antitrust mock-trial and visit the competition division of one of the Netherland’s largest law firms. The course covers cartels, cartel enforcement, bid-rigging and joint bidding.

This course deals with the effects of European Competition Law on the behavior of businesses in EU countries. An effective common market within the EU requires fair and undistorted competition. Hence the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union “TFEU” includes strict rules to tackle unfair competition. As an extremely broad concept of the law, section 101 TFEU, for example, stipulates that “All agreements, decisions by associations of companies and concerted practices, which have as their object or effect, either actual or potential, the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition, are prohibited.”

Consequently, the European Commission's DG Competition vigorously attacks cartels within the European Union. According to its own view, cartels are highly detrimental for the following reason: “A cartel is a group of similar, independent companies which joint together to fix prices, to limit production or to share markets or customers between them. Instead of competing with each other, cartel members rely on each other’s agreed course of action, which reduces their incentives to provide new or better products and services at competitive prices. As a consequence, their clients (consumers or other businesses) end up paying more for less quality.”

In a very recent case (Feb 2017) the European Commission has fined Campine, Eco-Bat Technologies and Recylex a total of €68 million for fixing prices for purchasing scrap automotive batteries, in breach of EU antitrust rules. From 2009 to 2012, four recycling companies took part in a cartel to fix the purchase prices of scrap lead-acid automotive batteries in Belgium, France, Germany, and the Netherlands. Unlike in most cartels where companies conspire to increase their sales prices, the four recycling companies colluded to reduce the purchase price paid to scrap dealers and collectors for used car batteries. By coordinating to lower the prices they paid for scrap batteries, the four companies disrupted the normal functioning of the market and prevented competition on price. A fourth company, Johnson Controls, was not fined because it revealed the existence of the cartel to the Commission.

The central theme in this course is the enforcement of European competition law and how this affects businesses and governments. The aim is to give students insights into how unfair competition occurs in practice, how this can be prevented and how to react if unfair competition is detected within a company. To that end, students will participate in a mock-trial, will debate with specialists on ways in which governments can organize public procurement fairly and will visit a top-5 law firm in the Netherlands to learn more about competition law in practice. During the last day of the course, students will give a short presentation in which they will have to comment on (the effects of) a particular cartel famous in their home country. This presentation can be transformed into a paper, which will make up the final grade for the course. Of course, the Summer Course has a social program as well, in which students discover Utrecht and the University’s facilities.

The course connects very closely to the courses Financial Law and Economics (special track Highlights of Law and Economics) or with Regulating Big Tech.

Tags: competition law, cartels, leniency, competition, public procurement, bid-rigging, joint bidding, cooperation, behavior of businesses, practice, 101 tfeu

» Download the day-to-day programme (PDF)

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Dr. E.S. (Eva) Lachnit LLM


Prof. Mr. Anna Gerbrandy
Prof. Mr. Laura Parret
Dr. Jotte Mulder LLM
Dr. Eva Lachnit LLM
Willem Janssen LLM

Guest speakers from Utrecht University Public Economic Law group and from practice, such as competition authorities, companies and leading law firms.


Ambitious bachelor and master students (law, economics) who are keen to know more about the public enforcement of European Competition Law and compliance with anti-trust rules.


To give advanced bachelor and master students (Law, Economics) an insight into the backgrounds of the public enforcement of European Competition law and its effects on the behavior of businesses, and vice versa, and to make them familiar with the career opportunities after a Master in Law & Economics or Economics & Law. This course is also an excellent introduction to the course Competition Law in de Master Law & Economics of Utrecht University.


Contact hours daily: 4-5 hours (lectures, group assignments)
Self-study daily: 4 hours (preparation and research)

The final exam in this course (which is optional for those students wanting to obtain the ECTS for their home institution) consists of a paper assignment, to be completed after the Summer Course has ended. This paper will be graded and the grade will be communicated to the home institution.


• € 800 - Course + course materials + housing
• € 600 - Course + course materials

» Overview of all available discounts


Utrecht Summer School doesn't offer scholarships for this course.


Dr. E.S. (Eva) Lachnit LLM
E: e.s.lachnit@uu.nl
P: +31 30 253 7826

» Contact Utrecht Summer School


Deadline for registration: 30 June 2017

Application closed