Competition law is a powerful tool that businesses can employ to recover from a crisis. Join members of Steptoe’s EU Competition team for a series of short On Demand videos that will help guide your business through the economic uncertainty post-COVID-19.

Click here to access the first video.

Part I – Routes to Market in

The CMA has provided guidance on its expected approach to merger assessments during the Covid-19 pandemic. While the timescales and substantive assessment of a merger’s effects on competition remain unchanged, the CMA has made a number of adjustments to its working arrangements in order to meet deadlines and progress cases. However, it is likely that some aspects of investigations may be subject to some delay.

Continue Reading CMA Guidance on its Approach to Merger Assessments during the COVID-19 Pandemic

At the EU level, Commission staff have adapted to working from home but are aware of the challenges in dealing with tight timeframes presented by merger notifications (including securing meaningful input from industry participants which may be affected by a transaction).  The Commission has therefore issued an appeal to request parties to delay merger filings as much as possible.  Other authorities have indicated that review timeframes may be extended.

Continue Reading Changes to Merger Rules

In these extraordinary times, economies around the World including Member States are pumping money into their economies.  Businesses and whole sectors are crying out for special support.  State support in the EEA above a low de minimis threshold is subject to strict state aid rules which requires pre-clearance by the European Commission under strict conditions. 

It is important to remember that as businesses struggle in these times to cope with issues like distribution, sourcing ingredients, components and other resources, they may look to collaborate with rivals.   In fact, many businesses have been doing exactly that.  Collaboration between competitors can be perfectly benign and may no anti-competitive effects (for example, in setting standards, lobbying efforts).  However, competition rules do apply and coordination of prices, market sharing, cost allocation, coordinated output reductions or sharing competitive sensitive information, would be prohibited.  Some restrictions are regarded as ‘hard core’ and rarely worthy of exemption (price fixing, customer and market allocations and quantity restrictions).  Penalties for infringement could lead to significant fines and possible private damages litigation.

Continue Reading Collaboration Between Competitors in Times of Crisis

Perhaps the first authority to warn about the perceived risks, the UK’s CMA issued a warning on 6rh March 2020 to traders about taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic.  CMA chief executive Andrea Coscelli said: “We urge retailers to behave responsibly throughout the coronavirus outbreak and not to make misleading claims or charge vastly inflated prices. We also remind members of the public that these obligations may apply to them too if they resell goods, for example on online marketplaces.”  This warning was triggered by the rising cost of hand sanitisers.  The CMA went on to warn that it would take enforcement action against those suspected of such conduct and, if necessary, would also consider requesting the Government to introduce price controls.  It has created a taskforce to monitor market behaviour during the crisis.  Details about the Taskforce, its mandate and how to lodge complaints can be found here.

Continue Reading Measures to Protect Against Predatory Conduct

On January 30, 2020, The European Commission fined a group of companies belonging to the Comcast Group, including NBCUniversal, €14.327 million for illegally restricting sales of film merchandise products in Europe. The fine already includes a 30% reduction that was awarded for NBCUniversal cooperating with the European Commission beyond what is required by law.

Continue Reading Sale Restrictions in the European Union Attract Large Fines

On December 17, 2018, the European Commission (EC) imposed on the clothing company Guess a hefty penalty of EUR 40 million for allegedly severe restrictions relating to the online sales activities of its authorized distributors. The full text of the Decision was published by the EC on January 25, 2019.

Continue Reading Guess Where Enforcement Stands Post E-Commerce Sector Inquiry?