Established by Regulation No 1/2003 and set up by Commission Notice No 2004/C 101/03 of 27 April 2004, the European Competition Network (ECN) brings together the competition authorities of the Member States and the Commission to form a network of public authorities that act in the general interest and work closely together to safeguard competition. The network, a “forum for discussion and cooperation in the application and enforcement of EC competition policy”  provides a framework for the cooperation of European competition authorities in cases where Articles 101 and 102 TFEU are applied and is “the basis for the creation and maintenance of a common competition culture in Europe”.

The ECN is intended to ensure both an efficient division of work in a system of parallel jurisdictions and a homogeneous application of the Union’s competition rules. The Notice sets out the criteria by which jurisdiction is divided and settles  the issue of case re-allocation to ensure that cases are dealt with by the best placed authority. An authority is well placed where three cumulative conditions are met: the agreement or practice has substantial direct actual or foreseeable effects on competition within its territory, is implemented within or originates from its territory; the authority is able to effectively bring to an end the entire infringement, i.e. it can adopt a cease and desist order the effect of which will be sufficient to bring an end to the infringement and it can, where appropriate, sanction the infringement adequately; and it can gather, possibly with the assistance of other authorities, the evidence required to prove the infringement. The effectiveness of the mechanism is guaranteed by an information exchange system that requires authorities to inform the network as soon as they launch an investigative measure.