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Eithne McCarthy, Jul 22, 2008
On April 17, 2008, the European Commission launched a public consultation to examine the functioning of the insurance block exemption regulation. The replies to the Consultation will enable the Commission to determine whether or not to renew the Block Exemption which will expire automatically on March 31, 2010. Following closure of the Consultation on July 17, 2008, the Commission will prepare a report for the European Parliament and Council by March 2009 which will contain any proposals for amendment. The original objective and key justification of the Block Exemption was to facilitate the Commission’s task in view of the large number of individual notifications being received prior to modernization of the EC competition rules by Council Regulation (EC) No. 1/2003. However, modernization has now abolished the system of individual notifications and companies must self-assess whether their agreements infringe Article 81(1) of the EC Treaty and, if so, whether they meet the exemption from prohibition criteria of Article 81(3). As the Consultation points out, only a few sectors currently benefit from a sector specific block exemption regulation and in other sectors block exemptions have expired and not been renewed. The Commission now needs to consider whether there are sufficient grounds to continue to declare by regulation, Article 81(3) applicable to certain categories of agreements in the insurance sector.