New EU competition rules for distribution agreements from 1 June 2022
Suppliers and resellers must pay regard to the competition rules when drafting agreements for the purchase and sale of goods and services, so-called vertical agreements. Agreements containing unlawful restrictions of competition are not only wholly or partly void, the parties also risk heavyfines.
The competition law assessment is often complex. In order to facilitate this assessment and to create safe harbours for those vertical agreements that are typically considered to be unproblematic from a competition law perspective, the European Commission issues so called block exemption regulations. A vertical agreement drafted in accordance with a block exemption is automatically approved from a competition law perspective, and the parties need not worry about the competition rules.
On 1 June 2022, a new EU block exemption regulation for vertical agreements entered into force (the “Block Exemption”). It builds on previous block exemptions but contains several important new features. In some respects, the rules have become stricter while other changes lead to new opportunities for both suppliers and distributors. The Commission has published guidelines (the “Guidelines”) to further facilitate the interpretation and application of competition rules to these types of agreements. The Block Exemption applies to all kinds of vertical agreements including exclusive and selective distribution agreements, agency agreements, franchise agreements and purchasing agreements.
In the following, Elisabeth Eklund, Partner, Helene Andersson and Karin Roberts, Counsels at Advokatfirman Delphi, highlight the most important news and discuss how they can affect business for companies operating in the EU.