Resolutely committed in a time of crisis
Continued sustained activity
Despite a particularly complicated context on account of the Covid-19 epidemic, representatives of the European Commission and national competition authorities (NCAs) met 18 times in 2020 in the context of the European Competition Network (ECN). This illustrates the strong desire of its members to safeguard European cooperation in the area of competition, and to confront the exceptional circumstances. The work focused on convergence in merger control and antitrust, abuse of dominant position and illegal horizontal and vertical practices. The question of implementing competition law in the specific context of the public health crisis was also a central issue.
Immediate responsiveness to support economic activity
From March 2020 on, the European Commission and the European Competition Network set up a temporary framework to assess possible anticompetitive practices that might have been implemented in the context of cooperation between companies to respond to emergency situations arising from the pandemic. This framework also took into account the impact of the crisis on merger control, as well as the progress of investigations into anticompetitive practices.
The European network indicated that this extraordinary situation may trigger the need for companies to cooperate in order to ensure the supply and fair distribution of scarce products to all consumers. In the current circumstances, the ECN will not actively intervene against necessary and temporary measures put in place in order to avoid a shortage of supply.
Companies that had any doubts as to the compatibility of these cooperation initiatives with competition law could at any time contact the Commission or the relevant national competition authority for informal advice.
At the same time, it is of utmost importance to ensure that products considered essential to protect the health of consumers in the current situation (e.g. face masks and sanitising gel) remain available at competitive prices. The ECN will therefore not hesitate to take action against companies taking advantage of the current situation by cartelising or abusing their dominant position.