BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) -- The EU's antitrust chief Neelie Kroes on Thursday called for new rights of compensation for consumers and businesses that fall victim to antitrust violators across Europe.
Kroes said consumers and businesses ''lose billions of euros'' every year as a result of companies breaking EU antitrust rules.
She suggests those victims should ''have a right'' to compensation by suing companies in court including groups or those led by consumer groups, in which victims can choose to participate.
''The (European) Commission is passionate for justice for the citizens of Europe,'' Kroes told reporters, adding that people or companies victims of cartels, price fixing or other anticompetitive behavior should be ''entitled to full compensation of the damage suffered.''
The EU's competition commissioner, however, warned against allowing widespread litigation and lawsuits in European courts similar to the U.S., adding her proposals would limit damages that could be sought by antitrust victims.
Lawsuits will also be dependent on prior EU antitrust decisions against violators.
National and EU regulators -- currently the main enforcers of EU competition law -- can fine a company or insist it change its behavior but they do not directly compensate the victims of bad business behavior.
There have so far been few antitrust damage claims before national courts even though most countries permit them.
''What we want is a system in which ... there are the same ways of approach'' to such litigation, Kroes said.
The proposals will now be up for consultations with business and consumer groups until July, after which detailed legislative rules will be drafted, Kroes said.
EU officials hope that more lawsuits could also enhance the level of respect for EU competition rules by discouraging companies from breaking antitrust rules.