Distribution across Europe and the UK Verticals regime: Do you really need to mind the “gap”?
Long awaited developments over the summer provided some appreciable clarity on the refreshed UK distribution regime (following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU). In particular, pursuant to a consultation process that ran almost in parallel to the equivalent EU process, and also adopting the same analytical framework as the EU (see VBB Insights of 27 June 2022), the UK has also now introduced a new vertical agreements block exemption order and accompanying CMA guidance. Both regimes also share the same de minimis exemption (15% absent a restriction by object).
Whilst it is no surprise that the respective UK and EU regimes tackle similar policy questions, the extent to which the two regimes appear aligned is perhaps somewhat surprising. Some, mostly marginal, divergences are observable but, overall, it is definitely feasible to continue with – or introduce – a common distribution strategy covering both jurisdictions. It is also encouraging that the CMA recognises that restrictions relating to exports outside the UK – or imports/reimports from outside the UK (including from the EU) – are “unlikely” to have the object of restricting competition within the UK. The EU guidance is clearer, noting that the equivalent restrictions “cannot” have the object of restricting competition.
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