On 15 September 2022, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on the question whether competing tenders submitted by group companies may be excluded from public procurement procedures even absent a violation of Article 101 Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) due to the “group privilege” (Case C-416/21).

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On 1 July 2022, the European Parliament and the Council have reached a political agreement on the proposed Regulation on foreign subsidies distorting the internal market (FSR). This marks a decisive step towards the formal adoption of the FSR later this year. The FSR will provide the Commission with a new tool to investigate subsidies granted by non-EU governments out of its own motion but will also subject recipients of foreign subsidies to a parallel merger clearance procedure and to special review in public procurement procedures.

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BLOMSTEIN advises Brazilian cattle and beef sector representative, Instituto Mato-Grossense da Carne, on EU’s ESG regulatory framework.

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BLOMSTEIN successfully advised IVC Evidensia on the acquisition of the Veterinary Clinic Hofheim, presumably the largest veterinary clinic in Germany.

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Starting on 1st of June 2022, contracting authorities are obliged to consult the Competition Register to determine whether one of the bidders in a public procurement procedure is listed in the Register. Although the contracting authorities will continue to decide on the outcome, i.e., whether to exclude such bidder or not based on an exclusion ground, listings in the competition register will have a considerable indicative effect.

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This week, the European Commission finally adopted its long-awaited new Vertical Block Exemption Regulation (VBER). Together with the also updated vertical guidelines, the new rules define competition law requirements for distribution and supply agreements for the next decade. When the new VBER enters into force in June, it will bring significant changes, particularly concerning e-commerce and online distribution. We summarise the most important changes.

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The European Commission’s Block Exemption Regulation for Vertical Agreements (VBER) is the most relevant guidance for the assessment of dual distribution agreements under EU competition law. Together with the accompanying Vertical Guidelines, it shapes the application of the antitrust prohibition to various distribution constellations.

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While generally, sustainability initiatives and Environmental Social Governance (ESG) become increasingly important for both consumers and investors, the line between strengthening cooperation to achieve sustainability goals and compliance with competition law remains a fine one (see also our briefing of 7 February 2021). The German Federal Cartel Office (FCO) has recently examined three sector initiatives aimed at sustainability gains. While the agency did not publish detailed decisions or case reports, some guidance can still be concluded from its findings.

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Today, 17 December 2021, is the deadline for implementing the EU Whistleblower Directive. So far, only Sweden and Denmark have transposed the Whistleblower Directive into respective national regulations; Portugal managed to pass a law by majority vote of the parliament in time, but the Portuguese transposition law will not enter into force until mid-2022. Germany, on the other hand, is threatened with infringement proceedings as the coalition partners of the old government could not agree on a first draft bill, the so-called Whistleblower Protection Act (WPA) of the Federal Ministry of Justice. However, the recently published coalition deal of the newly elected coalition picks up the issue again, so that new developments on the Whistleblower Protection Act seem to be underway. The coalition agreement commits to implement the directive, which creates a uniform legal framework for the protection of whistleblowers throughout the Union, in a “legally secure and practicable” manner. Germany plans to protect whistleblowers from legal disadvantages not only when reporting breaches of EU law, but also when reporting significant breaches of national regulations or any other significant misconduct, where disclosure is of special public interest.

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BLOMSTEIN has represented Vodafone in a successful challenge to a merger clearance of a joint venture between Deutsche Telekom and EWE AG. Following an appeal by Vodafone and complex court proceedings, on 22 September 2021 the Higher Regional Court of Düsseldorf annulled the 2019 clearance decision issued by the Federal Cartel Office for “Glasfaser Nordwest”, a joint venture to expand the fibre network in the north-western part of Germany.

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