Greening EU Competition Law: Commission Invites Comments On Draft Revised Rules On Horizontal Cooperation

By: Nicole Kar & Lauren O’Brien (Linking Competition)

Last week, the European Commission published its much-anticipated draft revised Horizontal Guidelines and two Horizontal Block Exemption Regulations (in respect of R&D agreements and specialisation agreements) for comments, in addition to five accompanying expert reports (read our client alert here). This follows a review and evaluation process launched in September 2019 and aims at adapting the current rules in specific areas where the evaluation found that they were not fully adjusted to the economic and societal developments, in particular the digital and green transition.

Why Sustainability?

The Guidelines contain nine sections devoted to different types of agreements between competitors.   The final, and crucial for this blog, section is new and entirely devoted to sustainability agreements. It is only “new” since the last version of the guidance however, as the 2001 guidance also included a sustainability section (specifically in relation to environmental agreements).

The Commission recognises that sustainable development is a core principle of the EU Treaties and a policy priority for the EU. It also says that competition enforcement contributes to sustainable development by ensuring effective competition, which stimulates innovation and contributes to consumer welfare. However, the Commission recognises that there is a concern that individual production and consumption decisions can have negative effects on factors like the environment, that are not sufficiently taken into account by the entities that cause them. One way of addressing or mitigating such market failures is through collective action…