Executive summary

This report focuses on the main developments in global competition enforcement in 2021. A complete set of graphs covering all competition enforcement indicators, i.e. all indicators on all years (2015-21), can be found on the OECD CompStats website.

The report consists of three chapters. Chapter 1 provides a brief overview of competition enforcement in the 79 participating jurisdictions. Chapter 2 describes the main developments in 2021 compared to 2020. Chapter 3 presents an analysis of three newly introduced variables: the number of bid-rigging (cartel) cases and decisions by industry (separately for cartel and abuse of dominance cases).

Compared to last year’s publication, this new edition of the OECD Competition Trends report includes one additional year of data (for 2021) and a net increase of seven jurisdictions. The OECD CompStats database now includes seven years of data for 79 jurisdictions. The newly added jurisdictions allowed for the creation of a new geographic region: “Middle East and Africa” (MEA). The region “Other”, which was included in previous editions, is excluded from this report. Several of the countries previously in “Other” are now in “MEA”, but some have also been allocated to the other existing regions.

The most significant changes in 2021 are found in the number of competition staff, dawn raids, leniency applications, settlements and commitments, cartel and abuse of dominance decisions, fines imposed, market studies, and merger activity.

Competition staff - The average number of competition staff in the CompStats jurisdictions grew by 4.9% in 2021, with 57% of the jurisdictions increasing their headcount. However, this growth in the number of staff was uneven across geographic regions, with the Americas and Asia-Pacific driving the increase, while Europe and MEA staying relatively stable. When considering the number of competition staff per million inhabitants, the trend remains the same, with one exception: the growth in Europe exceeded the other regions.

Dawn raids - The number of dawn raids conducted by competition authorities recovered in all regions in 2021 after a significant decrease in 2020 due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the pace of recovery varied among jurisdictions and geographic regions. Non-OECD jurisdictions seemed to bounce back faster, with the number of dawn raids in 2021 already exceeding 2019, while in OECD jurisdictions the increase was slower, with the number of dawn raids remaining below the number pre-pandemic.

Leniency applications - Between 2015-20, leniency applications declined significantly across regions and jurisdictions. This overall decline continued in all regions in 2021, except in Europe where applications increased by 32% in 2021 (although they remained below the number of applications in 2019 and previous years).

Settlements and commitments - In 2021, the percentage of cartel and abuse cases that were closed with a settlement or commitment generally increased. The increase in cartel settlements, which are more common than cartel commitments, predominantly came from OECD jurisdictions, where on average 44% of the cases ended with a settlement (compared to 29% in 2020). The percentage of abuse of dominance cases with a settlement or commitment also increased significantly outside Europe. The percentage of cases increased in all regions except in Europe, where it decreased from 38.5% in 2020 to 20% in 2021.

Cartel and abuse of dominance decisions - On average, CompStats jurisdictions took around eight cartel decisions in 2021, which was 9% more than in 2020. This growth was in all regions except the Americas, where the average number of decisions decreased from seven to five. As for the average abuse of dominance decisions, they remained stable, at around three per jurisdiction. Regional differences exist as the average decreased in Americas and MEA, while it increased in Europe and Asia-Pacific.

Fines - Total (and average) fines imposed in cartel and abuse of dominance cases increased by 52.5% in 2021. Total fines grew in all regions. The highest growth was in Asia-Pacific, with an increase of 183%. While cartel fines still account for the majority (68%) of total fines, there was a significant increase in the share of abuse of dominance fines from 17% in 2020 to 32% in 2021.

Market studies - In 2021, market studies decreased by 4.6%, with a total of 166 market studies across 64 CompStats jurisdictions. However, this varied by region, with an increase in Europe, and a decline in the other regions, with the most significant decline in MEA.

Merger activity and intervention - Merger notifications and decisions significantly increased in 2021, while the intervention rate – the percentage of merger cases in which competition authorities intervened by either prohibiting a merger or approving it under certain conditions – decreased, on average, from 2.5% in 2020 to 1.6% in 2021. This decrease in intervention rate was mostly driven by the significant increase in merger decisions (the denominator), as this was not matched by equivalent growth in intervention (the numerator). Although there was in fact also a decline in the absolute number of interventions, driven by a decline in the number of mergers approved with remedies, while the number of prohibited mergers increased. Thus, this net decrease in interventions, together with the significant increase in the number of merger decisions, lead to a substantial decrease in the intervention rate.

The OECD CompStats questionnaire included three new questions in 2021. One question referred to the number of cartel decisions that related to bid-rigging, while the other two new questions identified the number of cartel and abuse of dominance decisions by industry.

In 2021, competition authorities in the CompStats jurisdictions took a total of 182 cartel decisions that related to bid-rigging, representing 34% of all cartel decisions. However, regional differences were significant, with bid-rigging representing the highest percentage of all cartel decisions in Asia-Pacific (63%) and the lowest in MEA (16%).

An analysis of the industries affected by cartel or abuse of dominance decisions in 2021 confirmed previous findings based on economic theory and empirical literature. The manufacturing industry seems most prone to cartels (representing close to 18% of all cartel decisions), while the ICT industry had most abuse of dominance decisions (accounting for 15% of all abuse of dominance decisions). Again, regional differences exist. For example, in Europe, the industry with the most cartel decisions was wholesale trade (21% of all cartel decisions in the region), while in Asia-Pacific this was construction (29% of all cartel decisions in the region). In abuse of dominance decisions, ICT was the most common in Europe (23%), while it was manufacturing in Asia-Pacific (24%) and MEA (33%).


This work is published under the responsibility of the Secretary-General of the OECD. The opinions expressed and arguments employed herein do not necessarily reflect the official views of the Member countries of the OECD.

This document, as well as any data and map included herein, are without prejudice to the status of or sovereignty over any territory, to the delimitation of international frontiers and boundaries and to the name of any territory, city or area.

The statistical data for Israel are supplied by and under the responsibility of the relevant Israeli authorities. The use of such data by the OECD is without prejudice to the status of the Golan Heights, East Jerusalem and Israeli settlements in the West Bank under the terms of international law.

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