Early Competition Law In Europe
Competition law is a law that promotes or seeks to maintain market competition by regulating anti-competitive conduct by companies Competition law is implemented through public and private enforcement.
Competition law is known as antitrust law in the United States and anti-monopoly law in China and Russia. In previous years it has been known as trade practices law in the United Kingdom and Australia.
The history of competition law reaches back to the Roman Empire. The business practices of market traders, guilds, and governments have always been subject to scrutiny, and sometimes severe sanctions. Since the 20th century, competition law has become global. The two largest and most influential systems of competition regulation are United States antitrust laws and European Union competition law. National and regional competition authorities across the world have formed international support and enforcement networks.
An early example of competition law can be found in Roman law. The Lex Julia de Annona was enacted during the Roman Republic around 50 BCE. To protect the grain trade, heavy fines were imposed on anyone directly, deliberately, and insidiously stopping supply ships. Under Diocletian in 301 CE, an edict imposed the death penalty for anyone violating a tariff system, for example by buying up, concealing, or contriving the scarcity of everyday goods. More legislation came under the constitution of Zeno of 483 CE, which can be traced to Florentine Municipal laws of 1322 and 1325. This provided for confiscation of property and banishment for any trade combination or joint action of monopolies private or granted by the Emperor. Zeno rescinded all previously granted exclusive rights. Subsequently introduced legislation to pay officials to manage state monopolies.
Early competition law in Europe
The English common law of restraint of trade is the direct predecessor to modern competition law later developed in the US. It is based on the prohibition of agreements that ran counter to the public policy unless the reasonableness of an agreement could be shown. It effectively prohibited agreements designed to restrain another’s trade. The 1414 Dyer’s is the first known restrictive trade agreement to be examined under English common law. A dyer had given a bond not to exercise his trade in the same town as the plaintiff for six months but the plaintiff had promised nothing in return. On hearing the plaintiff’s attempt to enforce this restraint, Hull J exclaimed, “per Dieu, if the plaintiff were here, he should go to prison until he had paid a fine to the King.” The court denied the collection of a bond for the dyer’s breach of agreement because the agreement was held to be a restriction on trade. English courts subsequently decided a range of cases which gradually developed competition related case law, which eventually was transformed into statues law.