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Review of the two Horizontal Block Exemption Regulations

Policy field

Competition: Antitrust

Background

Article 101(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union ('the Treaty') prohibits agreements between undertakings that restrict competition unless they generate efficiencies in line with Article 101(3) of the Treaty. This happens if they contribute to improving the production or distribution of goods or services, or to promoting technical or economic progress, while allowing consumers a fair share of the resulting benefits; they only impose restrictions that are indispensable for the attainment of these objectives and do not eliminate competition in respect of a substantial part of the product in question. The prohibition contained in Article 101(1) of the Treaty covers, amongst others, agreements entered into between actual or potential competitors (so-called 'horizontal agreements').

Commission Regulations (EU) No 1217/2010 (Research & Development Block Exemption Regulation - 'R&D BER') and 1218/2010 (Specialisation Block Exemption Regulation - 'Specialisation BER'), together referred to as the 'Horizontal block exemption regulations' (or 'HBERs'), exempt from the prohibition contained in Article 101(1) of the Treaty those R&D and specialisation agreements for which it can be assumed with sufficient certainty that they satisfy the conditions of Article 101(3) of the Treaty. The Commission Guidelines on horizontal cooperation agreements ('HGL') provide binding guidance on the Commission for the interpretation of the HBERs and for the application of Article 101 of the Treaty to other horizontal agreements. The HBERs will expire on 31 December 2022.

The purpose of this review is to allow the Commission to determine whether it should let the two Regulations lapse, prolong their duration or revise them.

According to Better Regulation Principles, the procedure is divided in two steps: (i) an evaluation phase and (ii) an impact assessment phase.

The objective of the evaluation phase is to gather evidence on the functioning of the current Horizontal Block Exemption Regulations and the accompanying Guidelines on horizontal cooperation agreements. In line with the Better Regulation Principles, this evaluation will be based on five evaluation criteria: effectiveness, efficiency, relevance, coherence and EU added value. The evaluation phase includes a public consultation process allowing interested stakeholders to provide feedback and contribute suggestions. It will also take account of the Commission's recent case practice with regard to horizontal cooperation. It will also draw on the considerable experience of national competition authorities with enforcing the EU competition rules in this area as well as relevant European and national case law.

The objective of the impact assessment phase is to inform and support the decision of the Commission to determine whether it should let the Regulation lapse, prolong its duration or revise it on the basis of the evidence gathered during the evaluation phase. It will verify the existence of any problem related to the current functioning of the Horizontal Block Exemption Regulations identified during the evaluation phase, explore the underlying causes, assess whether EU action is needed, and analyse the advantages and disadvantages of available solutions.

Reference documents

Current legislation applicable to horizontal agreements.

The Consultation strategy document for the evaluation of the Horizontal Block Exemption Regulations.

Evaluation phase

The progress of the evaluation phase can be followed on the website of better regulation.

The evaluation roadmap was published on 5 September 2019. The deadline for stakeholders' feedback expired on 3 October 2019.

The public consultation was launched on 6 November 2019. The deadline for stakeholders to fill in the questionnaire is 12 February 2020 (midnight Brussels time).

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Contact details

Responsible services:
Directorate-General for Competition – Unit A.1 – Antitrust Case Support and Policy
Please always indicate the reference number in your correspondence: HT. 5454

E-mail address:
COMP-HBERS-REVIEW@ec.europa.eu

Postal address:
European Commission
Directorate-General for Competition
1049 Brussels
Belgium

  
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