What is the problem?
Standard-setting can give rise to restrictive effects on competition by potentially restricting price competition and limiting or controlling production, markets, innovation or technical development.
Why is the EU action required?
First, if companies were to engage in anti-competitive discussions in the context of standard-setting, this could reduce or eliminate price competition in the markets concerned, thereby facilitating a collusive outcome on the market.
Second, standards that set detailed technical specifications for a product or service may limit technical development and innovation. While a standard is being developed, alternative technologies can compete for inclusion in the standard. Once one technology has been chosen and the standard has been set, competing technologies and companies may face a barrier to entry and may potentially be excluded from the market.
Third, standardisation may lead to anti-competitive results by preventing certain companies from obtaining effective access to the results of the standard-setting process.
What has the Commission done up to now?
The European Commission has adopted and published the "Revised rules for the assessment of horizontal cooperation agreements under EU competition law", December 2010, including the Communication from the Commission "Guidelines on the applicability of article 101 of the treaty on the functioning of the European Union to horizontal cooperation agreements".
The European Commission is for example together with European Patent Office organising conferences on Intellectual Property rights in ICT standardisation:
22 November 2011: The public authorities and international perspective: how to increase transparency and predictability
18 April 2012: Transparency and Predictability of Licensing in ICT through Patent Pools
22 November 2012: Implementing FRAND standards in Open Source: Business as usual or mission impossible
What will the Commission do?
The European Commission will follow the impact of the guidelines carefully by continuing interacting with the stakeholders.