Federal Council decides on direction for reform of competition authorities

Administrative rulings addressing violations of the Cartel Act are initially rendered by the Competition Commission (COMCO). The cases, nevertheless, undergo investigation by the COMCO secretariat. The Federal Council intents on reforming this organization of the competition authorities and enhancing the effectiveness of this separation between investigation and decision-making body. As a result, the Federal Council issued guidance to the Federal Department of Economic Affairs, Education, and Research (EAER) on 15 March 2024, mandating the submission of a consultation draft for a reform by the middle of 2025.

According to the Federal Council’s press release, the Secretariat will in future consistently conduct the investigation without the involvement of COMCO to strengthen COMCO’s independence when making decisions. In addition, the number of COMCO members is aimed to decrease from the current 11-15 to 5-7 members, while their workloads will increase. These measures are intended to strengthen and professionalize the COMCO against to its secretariat. However, COMCO is intended to continue to be a broad militia authority.

Furthermore, the EAER has been instructed to assess whether a procedural officer can relieve COMCO. This individual would oversee adherence to the rights of the defending parties, allowing the COMCO members to concentrate more on the substantial matters at hand. Upon completion of the primary investigations, the COMCO Secretariat shall be obligated to provide the accused companies with a status report on the preliminary findings, allegations, and intended legal ramifications.

Additionally, the enhancement of the appeals process before the Federal Administrative Court (FAC) is a priority for the Federal Council. The FAC shall appoint specialist (part-time) judges to participate in competition cases. The objective of the Federal Council is to enhance the efficiency of the proceedings and fortify the economic acumen of the FAC. Furthermore, the time limits imposed on the parties to appeal significant COMCO rulings are to be eased.

By implementing these measures, the Federal Council is largely adhering to the recommendations of an expert commission led by former federal judge Hansjorg Seiler in developing these proposals. The commission concluded in its final report that COMCO functions properly in theory and has no constitutional deficiencies. As a result, a system change is deemed inappropriate.

These are the upcoming dates for our Annual General Meetings:

Thursday, 21 March 2024
Thursday, 20 March 2025