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Straight A students? Training of National Judges in EU competition law

17 June 2016
The European Commission has been training national judges across all of Europe in EU competition law for years. Was it worth it? A study showing the results of the training program has just been published here.*

With a view on private enforcement the results are particularly insightful: 84% of judges dealing with private enforcement actions would like to have more training. What's more, German judges may in fact have the decisive edge.

Back to school for European judges

"Training of National Judges" - is the name of the game under which the Commission has been funding training programs for judges across Europe since 2002. The reason of course is that national judges have competence to apply EU competition law and should simply know what they are doing. And so the EU is promoting training and networking events.

The new study has shown that (a) it was a worthwhile investment and (b) there is still a long way to go. Training must continue and according to the study European judges are willing recipients of such training:

  • Depending on their area of expertise up to 92% of judges would like more training on EU competition law
  • Of judges dealing with private enforcement alone 84% would like more training on EU competition law

Focus on German judges

German judges may in fact have one major advantage over their European counterparts when it comes to training and expertise in EU competition law: they are a small group of specialists. It's exactly those types of specialized judges the Commission is looking to advance even further. As the study has shown:

  • A huge number of judges in Europe could in theory have to decide a private enforcement action
  • However the number of judges in Europe that are likely to face such an action in reality is conversely low

Germany is one of only five member states where there are specialized judges dealing with private enforcement actions – that means there are only around 139 first instance judges at 24 regional courts in Germany that should receive intensive training. It is the Commission's objective to focus their training activities on those types of specialized judges. For non-specialized judges in other member states only dealing with private enforcement actions every once in a while the Commission has instead said to ensure the availability of on-demand training resources.

Yet what is still missing in the German market is a systematic training approach for German judges – as was rightfully noted in the study by the Studienvereinigung Kartellrecht, an association of German speaking lawyers specializing in competition law. This however presents tremendous potential and opportunity: Germany is getting more popular as a forum for antitrust damages actions by the minute. The continued training of German judges should follow with the same level of enthusiasm – not least because judges themselves want more training for example on economic principles for the quantification of damages according to the study.

Watch out for the Directive!

Training in the private enforcement sector should currently be on top of training agendas anyway: The Damages Directive is due to be implemented into national law by 27 December 2016. Private enforcement actions will therefore continue increase especially in Germany. Courts should be on their marks.

Die Fortbildung im private enforcement ist aktuell besonders wichtig: bis zum 27. Dezember 2016 ist die in nationales Recht umzusetzen. Damit werden Kartellschadensersatzklagen in den Mitgliedsstaaten und vor allem auch in Deutschland weiter zunehmen. Hierfür haben sich die Gerichte zu wappnen.

*an executive summary of the study can be found here.

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