European Competition Network | Statement on Application of Competition Law during Corona Crisis
On 23 March 2020, the European Competition Network (ECN), which includes the European Commission and the national competition authorities of the EU, issued a statement “on application of competition law during the Corona crisis” – see attachment.
The ECN explains that it “understands that this extraordinary situation may trigger the need for companies to cooperate in order to ensure the supply and fair distribution of scarce products to all consumers”. Given this state of affairs, the ECN “will not actively intervene against necessary and temporary measures put in place in order to avoid a shortage of supply”. According to the ECN, such measures would not be anticompetitive: either they would not amount to a restriction of competition or they would be exempted as the efficiencies generated would “most likely outweigh any such restriction”. The ECN invites any company in doubt regarding the legality of a possible cooperation initiative to contact the European Commission, the EFTA Surveillance Authority or a national competition authority for informal guidance.
At the same time, the ECN also stresses that “it is of utmost importance to ensure that products considered essential to protect the health of consumers in the current situation (e.g. face masks and sanitising gel) remain available at competitive prices”. Therefore, the ECN will “not hesitate to take action against companies taking advantage of the current situation by cartelising or abusing their dominant position”. The ECN also reminds manufacturers that they can impose maximum resale prices for their products, which “could prove useful to limit unjustified price increases at the distribution level”.
This statement echoes the position which was adopted recently by the Competition and Markets Authority in the UK and by the Bundeskartellamt in Germany.
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