Information exchanges between competitors have been an object of interest for competition authorities on both sides of the Atlantic for decades now; in the European Union since the 1970s with cases such as the IFTRA Glass Containers and later the UK Tractor information exchanges, and in the United States as far back as the 1920s with cases such as Maple Flooring or American Column & Lumber. Information exchanges between competitors have not only given rise to a considerable amount of cases, but also to interpretative notices by the respective competition authorities. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission and the Department of Justice jointly issued in 2000 the Antitrust Guidelines for Collaboration Among Competitors, and the European Commission issued in 2011 the Guidelines on the Applicability of Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union to Horizontal Cooperation Agreements.
Whether via trade associations or otherwise, such exchanges can be productive for consumers — enabling cost savings through collective know-how re improving products or production efficiency—or detrimental, hiding price-fixing or bid-rigging. And with data now a global product, such challenges will only increase in complexity. Starting with a case study of egregious competitive disregard, this colloquium looks at regulating such exchanges and, in particular, at the very real risks such exchanges pose for unwary companies.
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