Competition law, known in the United States as antitrust law, has three main elements:
-It may prohibit agreements or practices that restrict free trading and competition between business entities. This includes
in particular the repression of cartels.
-It may ban abusive behaviour by a firm dominating a market, or anti-competitive practices that tend to lead to such a
dominant position. Practices controlled in this way may include predatory pricing, tying, price gouging, refusal to deal and
-It may supervise the mergers and acquisitions of large corporations, including some joint ventures. Transactions that
are considered to threaten the competitive process can be prohibited altogether, or approved subject to "remedies"
such as an obligation to divest part of the merged business or to offer licences or access to facilities to enable other businesses
to continue competing.
The substance and practice of competition law vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Protecting the interests of consumers
(consumer welfare) and ensuring that enterpreneurs have an opportunity to compete in the market economy are often treated
as important objectives. Competition law is closely connected with law on deregulation of access to markets, state aids and
subsidies, the privatisation of state owned assets and the establishment of independent sector regulators. In recent decades,
competition law has been viewed as a way to provide better public services.
The history of competition law reaches back further than the Roman Empire. The business practices of market traders, guilds
and governments have always been subject to scrutiny, and sometimes severe sanctions. Since the twentieth century, competition
law has become global. The two largest and most influential systems of competition regulation are United States antitrust
law and European Community competition law. National and regional competition authorities across the world have formed international
support and enforcement networks.
Competition law today
Modern competition law begins with the United States legislation of the Sherman Act of 1890 and the Clayton Act of 1914.
While other, particularly European, countries also had some form of regulation on monopolies and cartels, the US codification
of the common law position on restraint of trade had a widespread effect on subsequent competition law development. Both after
World War II and after the fall of the Berlin wall competition law has gone through phases of renewed attention and legislative
updates around the world.