The Commission issued fines totaling €6.5 billion in 2018, which is a new record and almost double the amount of competition fines in 2017.
Cartel and Abuse of Dominance Fines
Despite the increase of competition fines in general, cartel fines are on the decline according to recently published statistics. The Commission issued fines of less than €1 billion in cartel proceedings and announced only four dawn raids in 2018. In comparison, the Commission issued fines of approximately €1.9 billion for cartel infringements and announced seven dawn raids in 2017. Fines for abuse of dominance remained at the top of the list in 2018, as a result of large-scale fines issued against Google and Qualcomm.
The Commission’s Competition Fines in the Past 5 Years (in € billion)
2018 was also a record year for merger control with 414 mergers notified to the Commission. No mergers were prohibited by the Commission in 2018. However, in Aperam/VDM and Celanese/ Blackstone/JV, the parties abandoned the transactions during the Phase II investigation.
Annual Merger Notifications Over Time
In addition, the use of the pull-and-refile strategy in the EU has become more frequent in 2018. This is a common strategy in the US to avoid an in-depth investigation. Both Quaker/ Global Houghton and Knauf/Armstrong were conditionally cleared in Phase I by the Commission after the pull-and-refile. Although this strategy was used in earlier years, for example in Boehringer Ingelheim/Sanofi, pre-notification discussions have instead generally been used as a major tool to avoid Phase II investigations in the EU and they continue to be frequently used if an in-depth investigation is expected.
The average length of pre-notification discussions has been gradually increasing since the 1990s. The average duration of pre-notification discussions for Phase II decisions was 185 days in 2018 as opposed to 158 days in the 2011-2017 time period. The average duration of investigations (from public announcement to the Commission decision) for Phase II cases has also increased from 336 days in the 2011-2017 time period to 404 days in 2018.
 Aperam/VDM (Case COMP/M.8907), Commission decision of December 21, 2018.
 Celanese/Blackstone/JV (Case COMP/M.8547), Commission decision of March 19, 2018.
 Quaker/Global/Houghton (Case COMP/M.8492), Commission decision of December 11, 2018.
 Knauf/Armstrong (Case COMP/M.8832), Commission decision of December 7, 2018.
 Boehringer Ingelheim/Sanofi (Case COMP/M.7917), Commission decision of November 9, 2018.