EU Regulator Withdraws Antitrust COVID Temporary Framework

The European Commission has today adopted a revised Informal Guidance Notice that allows businesses to seek informal guidance on the application of EU competition rules to novel or unresolved questions. The revised Informal Guidance Notice provides for more flexible conditions and aims at increasing legal certainty, to the benefit of businesses seeking the guidance when assessing the legality of their actions under EU competition rules. Informal guidance will take the form of “guidance letters”.  

The Commission has also today decided to withdraw the Antitrust COVID Temporary Framework in light of the relative improvement of the sanitary crisis in Europe. The Antitrust COVID Temporary Framework, adopted in April 2020, allowed the Commission to assess business cooperation projects in response to situations of urgency stemming from the coronavirus outbreak.

The 2004 Informal Guidance Notice specified the circumstances in which the Commission would consider issuing informal guidance to companies on the application of EU competition rules. The 2004 Notice provided for strict criteria, which limited the circumstances in which the Commission could provide informal guidance. The tool was never used for that reason.

In May 2022, the Commission invited all interested parties to provide feedback on the draft text of the revised Informal Guidance Notice, in close cooperation with the National Competition Authorities. In October 2022, the Commission published a summary report of the results of that consultation.

The revised text adopted today updates the criteria that allow the Commission to provide informal guidance to businesses in cases presenting novel or unresolved questions, including in situations of crisis or other emergencies. It will be instrumental for businesses involved in emerging ways of doing business, as well as for those facing a crisis or other emergencies.

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