Ever wondered why consumers pay different prices for the same goods in different EU member states? The European Commission (EC) thinks territorial supply constraints (TSCs) bear much of the blame. Although they have long been a regular topic of antitrust debate, investigations into TSCs have been rare. This is unlikely to stay the case: a recent study into TSCs commissioned by the EC, recent enforcement action, and the pending revision of the regulatory framework show that TSCs have become a policy focus of the EC, and national competition authorities may follow. A just-announced EC investigation into Mondelēz International, one of the world’s largest snacks companies, for alleged breaches of the competition rules through TSCs may be a sign of things to come. We outline why TSCs are in the antitrust spotlight and what companies should expect from competition enforcers in the future.

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Reducing harmful effects on global climate and the environment, protecting human rights in global supply chains and ensuring good working conditions have taken the political scene as overarching goals in the third millennium. Consumer and investor choices are increasingly based not only on cost but also on sustainability considerations. But are “green business models” reconcilable with competition law?

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Today is one of the rare days where the city of Berlin is covered with a very light white layer of snow; the long expected new competition law chose this day to enter the stage and silently enter into force. We summarize the main changes, which may well make some noise in the months to come.

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Margrethe Vestager, EU commissioner for competition policy, recently issued a stern public warning to car manufacturers. The European Commission is currently investigating the companies for their role in Germany’s infamous car emissions scandal. Businesses that intend to cooperate in the area of cybersecurity would do well to reflect on the commissioner’s warning as well. Cars and IT? At first glance, few parallels come to mind between the traditional automotive sector and the relatively new field of cybersecurity. Yet both areas face disruptive technological challenges that companies can only overcome together. The cautionary tale of the German carmakers offers vital antitrust lessons for technical cooperation far beyond the confines of the automotive industry.

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On 17 November 2020, Portolano Cavallo is hosting a webinar about the ongoing review of the EU rules on vertical restraints. BLOMSTEIN partner Anna Huttenlauch will be one of the panellists together with distinguished colleagues Enzo Marasá and Irene Picciano from Portolano Cavallo and Marco Plankensteiner from Kramer Levin. The webinar will also examine vertical enforcement in the key jurisdictions Italy, France and Germany.

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Our contribution to the new GCR tool on Vertical Restraints, which has just been released, is now online and available free-to-view on the GCR website. We have contributed the Germany section, which covers legislation and cases on various topics, including Resale Price Maintenance (RPM), Most Favourite Nation Clauses (MFNs), Non-Compete Obligations, Territorial Restrictions, and Selective Distribution. The tool is a helpful reference for many other jurisdictions worldwide with contributions from selected competition specialists .

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On 20 July 2020, the European Commission published a Communication on the protection of confidential information by national courts in proceedings for the private enforcement of EU competition law. It aims to provide guidance to national courts on handling confidential information in competition related litigation.

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Retail alliances like Coopernic (including, e.g. Ahold Delhaize), AgeCore (with Colruyt, Intermarché and Edeka) or Eurelec (E. Leclerc and Rewe) have been around for a long time. They gained new attention in the past decade because of the sheer, increased number of alliances and because some open trade conflicts. Concerns on restrictions of competition and higher consumer prices were also raised in this context as well as more general negative effects, such as upsetting the balance of power, preventing farmers from getting fair prices for their products while (brand) manufacturers would suffer from heavy bargaining pressure.

Last week, the European Commission published a comprehensive report at the request of the European Parliament about the effects of buying groups and other alliances on supply chains across Europe with the aim of clarifying whether retail alliances are permitted under antitrust law or not.

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BLOMSTEIN has advised leading Chinese locomotive manufacturer CRRC Zhuzhou Locomotive Co., Ltd. (CRRC ZELC) on the merger control and foreign direct investment (FDI) aspects of its acquisition of Vossloh Locomotives GmbH (Vossloh Locomotives). Following an in-depth review, the transaction received merger control clearance from the Federal Cartel Office on 27 April 2020. The German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy had cleared the FDI matter earlier this year, also following an in-depth review of the case.

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The Covid-19 pandemic is causing far-reaching changes in every area of life and business. Almost all companies and industries are affected and the legal situation changes almost daily in some areas. The European Competition Network (ECN) emphasized in a recent joint statement that the current competition rules are flexible enough to adapt to changing economic situations and need no substantial modification. This briefing provides an overview on how the Corona crisis affects competition law – and what remains unchanged – and where to find further information (see the links throughout the document). BLOMSTEIN will closely monitor and inform about further developments. If you have any questions, Anna Huttenlauch and Max Klasse will be happy to assist you at any time.

BLOMSTEIN Corona and Competition Law (31.03.2020)

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