When just listening is a problem

Author: | Published: 22 Feb 2011

The most serious types of competition law infringement are normally those involving agreements between competitors. Cooperation between competitors can, however, also bring with it substantial benefits.

Between hardcore cartel activity and keeping your competitors at arm's length lies an enormous spectrum of behaviour, which may be acceptable but is not risk free. There can be a fine line between lawful and unlawful, the precise location of which will depend on the facts of each individual case. Unfortunately, the penalties for getting it wrong can be severe.

To assist companies and their advisers in navigating this minefield, the European Commission (the EC) has issued guidelines outlining the analytical framework to be applied to cooperation between competitors (in EU terminology, horizontal agreements). These guidelines were refreshed at the end of 2010 and the new guidelines incorporate substantial changes, which represent important clarification and refinements of the existing position.

They also incorporate, for...