European Commission

Introduction

On 25 May 2020, the European Commission (“Commission”) has published its Final Report of the support studies for the evaluation of its Vertical Block Exemption Regulation (“VBER”) and the accompanying Guidelines on Vertical Restraints (the “Final Report”). The Final Report was published following a public consultation from 4 February to 27 May 2019 to gather views on the VBER’s functioning in the digital age. This was inspired by the growing importance of e-commerce and the interest in various online companies. This evolution has affected distribution and pricing strategies for both manufacturers and retailers, which the Commission decided warranted an evaluation of some of the current rules.
Continue Reading The revision of the Vertical Block Exemption Regulation – What is likely to change?

The European Commission (”Commission”) is preparing the ground for a new competition enforcement tool. This new tool could substantially extend the competition authority’s current enforcement powers and allow for far-reaching intervention where the Commission identifies structural competition concerns. In particular, following the proposal, the standard for intervention could be lowered significantly as the Commission may no longer be required to establish dominance in order to impose behavioural or structural remedies on a company.

Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, explained “that there are certain structural risks for competition, such as tipping markets, which are not addressed by the current rules.” She stated that the Commission “is seeking the views of stakeholders to explore the need for a possible new competition tool that would allow addressing such structural competition problems.
Continue Reading The New Normal? EU Commission Prepares a New Competition Enforcement Tool Aiming at Structural Competition Concerns

On 17 June 2020 the European Commission (“Commission”) published a White Paper on new enforcement powers regarding foreign subsidies. This initiative pursues two objectives, first it sets out a general policy approach for foreign subsidies, and second, it provides a number of proposals to address a perceived regulatory gap. More specifically, the White Paper suggests new tools to manage what the Commission regards as unfair competition and other distortions of competition within the internal market caused by foreign subsidies.

The White Paper proposes these new review powers of the Commission and/or other competent authorities in addition to already existing tools such as antitrust and merger control, State aid and FDI screening. As such, the Commission outlines a complementary toolbox aimed to facilitate transparency regarding foreign subsidies and maintain a level playing field within the EU internal market.
Continue Reading European Commission publishes White Paper on the Review of Foreign Subsidies – [New/More] Intervention Powers ahead?

On 28 May 2020, the EU’s General Court (“GC”) annulled the European Commission’s (“Commission”) decision of 11 May 2016 in which the Commission had prohibited the acquisition of Telefónica UK (“O2”) by Hutchison 3G UK (“Three”). It is the first time the EU Courts interpreted the EU Merger Regulation in so-called “gap-cases”, i.e., concentrations in oligopolistic markets which do not result in the creation or strengthening of an individual or collective dominant position.

In the days following the judgment, a number of commentators already emphasised the importance of the GC’s ruling. This post intends to carry out a measured review of the judgment, assess the GC’s findings with respect to each of the Commission’s three theories of harm, and probe whether the judgment is indeed a landmark one.
Continue Reading The General Court Annuls the Commission’s Decision to Block the Acquisition of Telefónica UK by Hutchison 3G UK – a Landmark Judgment for EU Merger Control?

The FDI space in Europe remains dynamic. Less than five months from the entering into force of the EU FDI Regulation, and just two months since the European Commission asked the Member States to both strengthen and “vigorously” implement the tools available to them and, where appropriate, introduce new FDI screening mechanisms –on which we reported in our previous alert –the past week manifested a number of legislative activities across Europe.

In this blog, we consider the changes proposed or made to laws in Germany, Hungary, Poland and Austria. Overall, we observe a further tightening of the legislative field, lowering the intervention thresholds / filing requirements, while increasing the sectors covered.

Besides the jurisdictions covered in the following, a new FDI law was also proposed in the Czech Republic in April and will be discussed and debated in the Czech Parliament in the coming weeks – watch this space for further updates.
Continue Reading Regulation of Foreign Direct Investment (“FDI”) gathers Pace across Europe – A Week of Change.

With the assistance of Covington, Unilever submitted the attached paper to the European Commission and a number of National Competition Authorities.  It suggests a possible framework for the application of EU competition law to sustainability collaborations between competitors.

The paper reflects insights from experts across Unilever and puts forward examples of existing or possible co-operations,
Continue Reading Sustainability and Competition: Covington Assists Unilever on Submission to European Competition Authorities on the Competition Implications of Sustainability Cooperation

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the European Commission (“EC”) is taking steps to stabilise the most affected sectors of the economy. As part of its efforts, the EC has announced its support for the agricultural and food sectors which are severely affected by the pandemic. This includes an exceptional derogation from the EU competition rules for certain sub-sectors.
Continue Reading European Commission Adopts Measures Aimed at Mitigating the Effects of COVID-19 in the Agri-Food Sector

On 8 May 2020, the European Commission (“Commission”) adopted a second amendment (the “New Amendment”) to the Temporary Framework for State aid measures to support the economy during the COVID-19 outbreak (the “Temporary Framework”) (see our previous post on the Temporary Framework here and on the first amendment here). The New Amendment sets out the conditions under which Member States may provide equity and/or hybrid capital (“Recapitalisation Measures”) as well as subordinated debt to non-financial undertakings that face serious economic difficulties as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Continue Reading The European Commission Includes Recapitalisation Measures in the Temporary Framework for State Aid Measures to Support the Economy During the COVID-19 Outbreak

Under Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (“TFEU”), an undertaking may abuse its dominant position by “directly or indirectly imposing unfair purchase or selling prices”.  The UK Court of Appeal recently provided guidance regarding the legal test to determine whether pricing is excessive and unfair.  In March, it dismissed the UK Competition and Markets Authority’s (“CMA”) appeal in the Phenytoin case.
Continue Reading The UK Court of Appeal Clarifies the Legal Test for Excessive Pricing

The European Commission has added to its call to Member States to act on foreign direct investment (“FDI”) by announcing that it is ready to support EU-level cooperation on FDI now. Spurred on by the COVID-19 crisis and the perceived vulnerability of key EU assets, the informal cooperation announced by the Commission will bring into effect early certain elements of the EU-level screening mechanism under the EU FDI Regulation that would otherwise have come into force in October 2020.

We consider what this announcement means and share some additional insights into the current approach of the Commission and Directorate-General Trade (“DG Trade”) to the subject of FDI based on a recent forum including senior officials.
Continue Reading European Commission Goes “Live” on FDI Coordination Six Months Early, Proposing Cooperation on an Informal and Voluntary Basis