Reed Smith Client Alerts

In view of the COVID-19 pandemic that has been affecting France and Europe for several weeks now, authorities and governments are willing to relax certain aspects of competition law. Companies will be able to adopt cooperative behaviours in certain sectors, notably to promote the supply and distribution of essential products, innovation, production and research in order to stem the effects of the crisis. The prohibition of anti-competitive practices remains applicable, and behaviour harmful to the economy and consumers will continue to be sanctioned by competition authorities. It will be possible to consult the Competition Authority and the European Commission on the lawfulness of the proposed practices.
woman walking in paris

Towards flexible rules for cooperation and collaboration in certain sectors

Competition authorities recognise that the exceptional situation arising from COVID-19 may require certain undertakings to cooperate in order to ensure the adequate production and distribution of basic necessities to all consumers. 

Such cooperation may be permitted even if it contravenes the traditional antitrust prohibition rules. The lawfulness of the practices is likely to depend on a case-by-case analysis, in particular in relation to the sector and the scale of the practices, and companies shall: 

  • Ensure that they do not go beyond what is necessary to deal with the crisis;
  • Not extend the practices further than the crisis period ;
  • Contribute to improving the production or distribution of products affected by a possible shortage ;
  • Not result in the elimination of competition, the disappearance of competitors or the homogenisation of supply, innovation and prices covering all or a substantial part of the relevant products ;
  • Benefit the economy and consumers.