Access to confidential information Rules

Access to confidential information Rules

Rules governing access to confidential information in a data room

Exceptionally, the Commission may also grant access to file through a “data room” procedure organised by DG Competition. This procedure is typically used for the disclosure of quantitative data relevant for econometric analysis.

More about Access to confidential information Rules

The purpose of this procedure is to provide access under strict rules to sensitive data constituting business secrets from third parties in order to verify the Commission's methodology and conclusions drawn from the data, economic or otherwise underlying the reasons behind the Statement of Objections whilst still maintaining the necessary confidentiality.

More about the Subject

Empirical analysis sometimes requires the Commission to review highly confidential data provided by different market participants that in principle includes both the methodologies applied by the Commission and the general structure and nature of the data itself. Thereby, depending on the type of data used, this can raise difficult confidentiality issues. In such a case, a “data room” is organised that allows a restricted group of persons, i.e. the external legal counsel and/or the economic advisers of the addressee(s) of a Statement of Objections, to access within DG Competition's premises confidential information constituted from third parties through the course of the investigation so as to verify the Commission's analysis and to advise the parties as regards this confidential information whilst maintaining the necessary confidentiality. The advisers may make use of the information contained in the data room for the purpose of defending their client but may not disclose any confidential information to their client. This has been applied several times to quantitative data, most often in relation to an econometric exercise.

Other Considerations

Whether and in what form third parties need to be contacted before their data is used for a data room is very case-specific, i.e. depending on the type of data room procedure and the type of data involved. It is recommended in this respect to discuss the appropriate arrangements beforehand with the Hearing Officer's team.


To the extent that this type of access to file would amount to a restriction of a party's right to have full access to the investigation file, the procedural guarantees provided for in Article 8 of the Hearing Officer Terms of Reference (the so-called “Akzo procedure”) apply. Equally, the Hearing Officer may decide pursuant to Article 8(4) of the Hearing Officer Terms of Reference that the data room procedure should be used in those limited cases where access to certain confidential information is indispensable for a party's rights of defence and where the Hearing Officer considers that, on balance, the conflict between respect for confidentiality and the rights of defence is best solved in this way. The Hearing Officer will not take such a decision if he considers that the data room is not appropriate and that access to the information should be given in a different form (e.g. following the standard procedure through non-confidential versions).


The data room rules need to be adjusted to the specifics of each case. The Commission provides the advisers of the addressee(s) of a decision with access to several PC workstations in a “data room” on the Commission's premises, equipped with the necessary software, if relevant the necessary data sets and a log of the regressions used to support the Commission's case. There is no network connection and no external communication is allowed. The advisers are permitted to remain in the room during normal working hours and if justified, access should be provided for consecutive days (typically two to three days). The advisers are strictly prohibited from taking copies, notes or summary of the documents and may remove from the data room only a final report, which is verified by the case team in order to ensure that it does not contain any confidential information. Each adviser signs a Confidentiality Agreement and is presented with the Conditions of Special Access to the Data Room before entering the data room.


The PCs or notebooks are provided by DG Competition's IT Service (contact: Local system administrators of Unit R3). This Unit should be alerted as soon as the approximate date of the data room is known. The DG Comp PCs/ notebooks are not normally equipped with econometrics software and installation on several machines takes some time. The IT Services will provide memory sticks to move data between PCs. Advisers must not use any of their own storage devices. WIFI, Bluetooth and similar connections must be disabled. Secretaries book the data room via the normal meeting room procedures. Early booking is advised because the room may be required for several days (e.g. two to three days) and only meeting rooms that can be properly locked are suitable.


The advisers' final report is intended to enable them to verify the veracity and accuracy of the Commission's analysis and the nature of the underlying data. However, it must not reveal any business secrets. What constitutes a business secret must be assessed carefully in each case.


The data room procedure can be a useful procedural tool reconciling confidentiality requirements with considerations relating to the right to be heard in a pragmatic fashion, especially in cases where empirical analysis plays a key role.


See Also


  • Information about Access to confidential information Rules in the Antitrust Manual of Procedures for the application of Articles 101 and 102 TFEU (Internal DG Competition)

Further Reading

  • Information about Access to confidential information Rules in EU Competition Procedure, 3rd. Edition, Edited by Luis Ortiz Blanco (Oxford University Press)

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