On 19 March 2019, the European Commission announced the launch of its new online tool to submit statements and documents in leniency and settlement proceedings in cartel and non-cartel cooperation cases.
The EU leniency policy offers companies in a cartel that wish to denounce it and offer evidence against it either total immunity from or a reduction of fines.
The new eLeniency tool allows companies or their legal representatives to apply for leniency online, which means they are no longer obliged to travel to the Commission’s premises for oral statements, as it was the case until now.
The tool can also be used to submit corporate statements, provide comments or make formal settlement submissions in cartel settlement procedures, or – in non-cartel cooperation proceedings – to acknowledge an infringement of competition law.
The tool is designed to make it easier to submit statements and documents to the EU's Directorate-General of Competition (DG COMP). Accessible online 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the tool is available in English at https://eleniency.ec.europa.eu/, and statements can be made in all the EU's official languages.
Companies should not be worried about business secrets, since eLeniency provides the same confidentiality and legal-protection guarantees as the traditional procedure. Data is transferred securely and cannot be copied or printed. Written corporate statements remain protected against discovery in civil litigation as they do with oral submissions.
To access the tool for the first time, users (individuals or law firms) must create a EU Login account or use their existing one. Users must then send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org indicating the email address that should be linked to their EU login account and asking to be registered in the eLeniency system, which only authorised users can access. As this may take time, the Commission advises users to register in advance.
Statements or submissions cannot be saved and must be entered at one time. Once started, the session remains open for 24 hours. For lengthy submissions, abbreviated statements with proper referencing are also accepted.
Before formally submitting and uploading to the server, a document or statement can be previewed and corrected. Once formally submitted, the user receives a timestamp confirming the date and time of submission, which is important for leniency applications since only the first company applying for leniency can benefit from immunity.
Details on how to submit supporting documents to a statement or submission can be found in the Guidance Notice of the European Commission.
Finally, it is important to note that the use of this online tool is strictly voluntary. Companies can still follow the traditional procedure.
This new tool undoubtedly makes it easier to submit a leniency request, but whether it will also lead to an increase in requests remains to be seen since applications to the leniency programme have declined in recent years. For more information on this eAlert, contact our local CMS experts: Hanne Baeyens and Annabel Lepièce.