National Panasonic (U.K.) Ltd. v. Commission of the European Communities: The Common Market’s First Look at Warrantless Searches in Antitrust Investigations

Gale, Catherine C. | January 1, 1981

In Antitrust Investigations National Panasonic (UK) Ltd v. Commission of the European Communities’ is the first decision of the European Court of Justice delineating the powers of the European Commission to conduct evidentiary searches on the premises of firms suspected of violating the European Economic Community’s antitrust laws. The Court held that the Commission may conduct on-the-spot searches of firms without prior notification. The Court’s decision greatly expands the investigatory powers of the Commission at the expense of significant privacy and due process rights for firms operating within the European Community. This note will examine the extent to which the Court’s decision departs from both the language and intent of the Community’s statutory grant of investigatory powers to the Commission, and will explore safeguards that the Community’s legislative authorities should introduce to protect a firm’s rights while affording the Commission maximum discretionary power.