Although the public enforcement of anti-cartel laws in the European Union has recently attracted a substantial amount of economic research, several important and policy-relevant research questions remain unanswered. One particularly interesting area in this respect is empirical studies on the investigation procedures of the European Commission (EC) in general and the determinants of the duration of investigations in particular. A deeper knowledge of these determinants would not only allow conclusions on how authority procedures could be improved but would also help the involved firms to optimize their resource inputs during antitrust investigations.

Against this background, we present an empirical assessment of EC cartel enforcement decisions between 2000 and 2011. Following a general characterization of EC cartel enforcement activities by essentially interpreting basic descriptive statistics as well as selected time series, we empirically investigate the determinants of the duration of cartel investigations by the EC. We are able to identify several key drivers of investigation length such as the Commission’s speed of cartel detection, the type of cartel agreement, the affected industry or the existence of a chief witness. Additionally, our analysis also reveals that both the number of cartel members and the number of national countries involved in the cartel did not have a significant effect on investigation length. The same conclusion is true for the number of detected cartels in the previous business year(s) and the existence of a repeated offender.


Competition Policy, Empirical Analysis, Cartels, European Union, Fines, Leniency, Duration of Investigation