EU competition law and standardisation agreements
Produced in partnership with Suzanne Rab of Serle Court
EU competition law and standardisation agreements

The following Competition practice note produced in partnership with Suzanne Rab of Serle Court provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • EU competition law and standardisation agreements
  • Types of standards
  • Application of Article 101(1) TFEU to standardisation agreements
  • Main competition concerns
  • Restrictions by object
  • Safe harbour
  • Restrictions by effect
  • Application of Article 101(3) TFEU to standardisation agreements
  • Application of Article 101(1) TFEU to standard terms
  • Main competition concerns
  • More...

Standardisation (or standard-setting) is a common practice and plays an important role in many industries and society more broadly—bringing about clear benefits by, for example, encouraging innovation, ensuring product quality and safety, permitting and facilitating interoperability/compatibility and reducing transaction costs.

Agreements on standards have as their main objective the definition of technical or quality requirements with which current or future production processes, methods or products must comply, for example to ensure compatibility between products that work together. Standardisation agreements can cover various issues such as standardisation of different grades or sizes of a particular product or technical specifications in markets where compatibility with other products or systems is required or essential. An example would be the GSM standard for mobile phones insofar as there are obvious economic benefits in mobile phones complying with the same standard to ensure users on different networks can connect with one another.

The European Commission (Commission) distinguishes between standardisation agreements and agreements relating to 'standard terms'—with the latter establishing standard conditions of sale or purchase between competitors and consumers for competing products.

Where participation in standard setting is unrestricted and transparent (or where there is no obligation to comply with a standard—ie where agreed standards are part of a wider agreement to ensure compatibility of products), there are unlikely to be competition law concerns. This would normally be the case

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