John Dalli has said “no”. The new Eu Consumer Commissioner want to postpone a legislative initiative aimed to give to consumers and businesses the possibility to pursue in courts damages claim if they are victim of anti-competitive behaviour. The proposal, prepared by the former commissioner Neelie Kroes, can be now suspended– according to “The Financial Times” – for several years, possibly forever: now the Commission will propose a less advanced plan.
So Dalli has bent to the European businesses and US multinationals will: they accept to be fined by the Eu Commission bureaucrats for antitrust abuses, but refuse to go to independent courts to pay, in case, damages from anticompetitive behaviour to consumers. Even if the system advocated by Kroes was far away from the “class action” lawsuits adopted in the United States, which is not – as a matter of fact – an anti-business system. One would have expected exactly the opposite: a yes to courts and the rule of law – even with some protection from unfair behaviour of ‘permanent’ consumer associations – and a no to administrative authorities, and discretiorary decisions.
This is a defeat and a warning, for everybody. In Europe, more than elsewhere, “market” has become simply a sum of firms, often big firms, with public and legal privileges and oligopolistic or monopolistic power, not a policentric system that allows competition (and therefore innovation) and the freedom to choice and promotes trust. This is not liberalism, neither old, nor new. Primarily, it is not a good economic model.