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Complaints

State Aid Complaints

 

This page outlines the legal basis and the process under which the European Commission will consider complaints against alleged unlawful State aid.

 

What is the legal basis?

Procedural Regulation, (EU) no. 734/2013

Implementing Regulation, (EU) no. 372/2014

 
How can I determine whether a measure constitutes State aid?

If, after applying the State aid tests you believe all four to be met, then there may be State aid present. Complaints will only be considered where it can be demonstrated that this is the case.

 

Who can validly lodge a complaint?

Pursuant to Article 20 of the Procedural Regulation, only interested parties may submit complaints to inform the Commission of any alleged unlawful aid or misuse of aid. To that end, natural and legal persons submitting a complaint pursuant to Articles 10(1) and 20(2) of Regulation (EC) No 659/1999 shall demonstrate that they are interested parties within the meaning of Article 1(h) of that Regulation (see to that end also Article 11a (1) of the Implementing Regulation).

Article 1(h) of the Procedural Regulation defines interested parties as "any Member State and any person, undertaking or association of undertakings whose interests might be affected by the granting of aid, in particular the beneficiary of the aid, competing undertakings and trade associations."

 
Why is it mandatory to use the complaint form?

Article 20(2) of the Procedural Regulation, as amended by Council Regulation 734/2013, has made the use of a complaints form compulsory. A new complaints form was introduced by an amendment to the Implementing Regulation (Commission Regulation 372/2014). Pursuant to article 11a (1) of the Implementing Regulation, interested parties are required to duly complete the form set out in its Annex IV and provide all the mandatory information requested therein. This new requirement entered into force on 2 May 2014. Its main purpose is to facilitate the handling of complaints by ensuring that the Commission receives all relevant information regarding alleged unlawful or misused aid.

On a reasoned request by an interested party, the Commission may dispense with the obligation to provide some of the information required by the form (Article 11a (2) of the Implementing Regulation). Complaints shall be submitted in one of the official languages of the Union (Article 11a (3) of the Implementing Regulation).

The Commission will ask complainants that have submitted incomplete information to make their views known within a set deadline. In the absence of a timely reply, the complaint will be deemed withdrawn.

 
How can I submit my complaint?

There are two ways:

  1. download the complaint form and send it in to the Commission either in print by post or by email
  2. fill in the online form and submit it electronically through the Commission's website.

Any complaint submitted should be non-confidential, without business secrets or other confidential information.

 
What happens after the complaint is submitted?

You should receive an acknowledgment of receipt of your complaint within 15 working days. The Commission will examine the information provided and inform you of the outcome as soon as possible (see section 7 on 'complaints' of the Code of Best Practice for the conduct of State aid control procedures). Please be aware that, notwithstanding what is provided in section 7.1 of the Code, Article 20(2) of the Procedural Regulation now requires interested parties to duly complete the form set out in Annex IV to the Implementing Regulation and provide all the mandatory information requested therein.

Your non-confidential version of the complaint may be submitted to the Member State for comments. You will be kept informed of the Commission investigation.

 

Which department/service will deal with the complaint?

Within the Commission, State aid complaints are treated on a decentralised basis by the departments responsible. For more information, see the list of contacts.

 

Can I bring a case before a national court?

The obligation of Member States to notify planned State aid to the Commission ('standstill obligation') has direct effect, which means that parties affected by State aid granted in disregard of the standstill obligation ('unlawful aid') can bring direct action before national courts. Therefore, natural or legal persons whose interests have been adversely affected by the alleged unlawful aid can pursue the matter before the national courts, which must assess the case regardless of the existence of any parallel procedure before the Commission. Actions before national courts can offer an important means of redress, which can bring immediate relief to the complainant affected by unlawful State aid. Remedies available before national courts include: preventing the payment of unlawful aid; recovery of unlawful aid (regardless of compatibility); recovery of illegality interest; damages for competitors and other third parties; and interim measures against unlawful aid.

Please note however that the Commission cannot offer advice about the national procedures available in individual cases. Further information on the application of State aid law by national courts can be found on this page.

 

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