By Francisco Costa-Cabral, Leigh Hancher, Giorgio Monti ,Alexandre Ruiz Feases (Tilburg Law and Economics Center)
This paper explores how EU competition law enforcement might be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Each section of this paper reviews how various components of EU competition law are impacted. The paper evaluates the state of play and, where relevant, it makes policy proposals for how competition law might develop. It suggests that the Commission’s state aid policy is unprecedentedly lax but more tightening up might be welcomed to ensure state funds are not misspent. In the field of antitrust it recommends that competition authorities should be watchful of excessive prices and price discrimination, using interim measures more boldly. Collusion should remain an enforcement priority but a procedural pathway to review agreements that may be in the public interest is proposed, drawing on practices developed in the US in the aftermath of major natural disasters. In merger control, the Commission’s strict interpretation of the failing firm defense is appropriate but, in general, a more skeptical attitude towards mergers may be warranted during this period. Advocacy plays a key role: competition agencies can both point to existing regulations that limit competition and monitor proposed emergency legislation that would harm competition for no good reason.