The following Competition practice note provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:
A key proposition underpinning EU competition law is that competing companies should act independently on markets. In principle, rivalry and competition can be expected to ensure the greatest consumer welfare, the most efficient allocation of resources and, with respect to the EU single market project, help further overall market integration. The European Commission and other regulators are therefore wary of any arrangements which might dampen competition or reduce commercial uncertainty that would otherwise exist between competitors.
However, EU competition law recognises that certain arrangements between competitors can lead to substantial economic benefits, in particular where they combine complementary activities, skills or assets. Such ‘horizontal cooperation’ can be a means of sharing risk, saving costs, increasing investments, pooling know-how, enhancing product quality and variety, and launching innovation faster—thereby delivering benefits for consumers and EU trade, as well as attractive commercial advantages for the companies concerned (see further Horizontal cooperation—checklist).
Agreements involving competitors will be of particular concern from an EU and UK competition law perspective where there is coordination on certain sensitive parameters (for example, on price and/or output) or where the cooperation enables collaborating parties with already strong market positions to gain, maintain or increase market power (and, thereby, lead to negative market effects with respect to prices, output, product quality, product variety or innovation). This includes horizontal collaboration that otherwise has legitimate objectives (as opposed
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