Shake-up ends EU mergers watchdog

EU officials have blamed recent court defeats for the massive shake-up, which is likely to alter the relationship between companies and the European Commission.

Some EU officials criticised the commission for presenting sloppy evidence and faulty theories in court. They argued the excessive power and independence of the merger task force caused the court cases.

The task force has been accused of arrogance and inflexibility by several companies, including General Electric and Honeywell, whose £26.8bn merger was barred in 2001. Tour operator MyTravel last week said is seeking some £200m in damages from the EC for the blocked takeover of First Choice Holidays in 1999.

The EU merger control reforms will pass power to scrutinise mergers to four European Commission units that are currently overseeing antitrust issues. They will start perusing mergers this year in parallel with the task force.

The units cover communication, services, basic industries and consumer goods. They will employ some 80 staff by the time they are fully operational in 2004.

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