Commission Notice on Agreements of Minor Importance Which Do Not Appreciably Restrict Competition: An Overview
The European Commission has recently published a notice on agreements of minor importance which do not appreciably restrict competition. This notice is intended to provide guidance on how the Commission will assess such agreements under EU competition law.
What are agreements of minor importance?
Agreements of minor importance are agreements between companies that do not have a significant impact on the market or on competition. These agreements are typically between small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and are of a limited duration.
Examples of agreements of minor importance include:
– Agreements between SMEs to jointly advertise their products or services
– Agreements between SMEs to jointly purchase goods or services
– Agreements between SMEs to exchange information on prices, costs, or sales volumes
How does the Commission assess agreements of minor importance?
The Commission will assess agreements of minor importance by using a two-step approach:
Step 1: Is the agreement within the scope of the exemption?
The Commission will first determine whether the agreement falls within the scope of the exemption for agreements of minor importance. To be eligible for exemption, the agreement must meet the following criteria:
– The combined market share of the parties to the agreement must be below 10%
– The agreement must not contain any hardcore restrictions (such as price-fixing or market sharing)
– The agreement must not have the effect of significantly reducing competition
Step 2: Does the agreement appreciably restrict competition?
If the agreement meets the criteria for exemption, the Commission will then assess whether it appreciably restricts competition. To make this determination, the Commission will consider factors such as:
– The market structure
– The market position of the parties
– The nature of the agreement
– The competitive effects of the agreement
If the Commission determines that the agreement does not appreciably restrict competition, it will be exempt from the application of EU competition law.
Why is this notice important?
The notice on agreements of minor importance provides clarity and guidance to SMEs on how the Commission will assess their agreements under EU competition law. This is particularly important for SMEs, as they may not have the resources to navigate complex competition law rules and procedures.
By providing a clear framework for the assessment of agreements of minor importance, the Commission is promoting competition and innovation, while also reducing the regulatory burden on SMEs.
In conclusion, the Commission notice on agreements of minor importance which do not appreciably restrict competition is a welcome development for SMEs. By providing guidance on how these agreements will be assessed under EU competition law, the Commission is promoting competition and innovation, while reducing regulatory burdens on SMEs.