According to a joint statement on the application of competition law by the European Competition Network (ECN), comprising all national competition authorities of the EU Member States, it will not "actively intervene" in necessary cooperation between companies during the COVID-19 crisis.
According to the statement, there will be no action against "necessary and temporary" measures, which might be applied by companies during the crisis in order to secure the supply and fair distribution of scarce products to all consumers.
This is because "such measures are unlikely to be problematic, since they would either not amount to a restriction of competition under Article 101 TFEU/53 EEA or generate efficiencies that would most likely outweigh any such restriction".
Informal guidance will be offered by the European Commission, the EFTA Surveillance Authority or national competition authorities, if companies have doubts regarding the compatibility of such cooperation initiatives with EU/EEA competition law.
Lastly, the ECN highlights that it is especially important that products considered essential to protect the health of consumers in the current situation (e.g. face masks and sanitising gel) remain available at competitive prices. Therefore, the ECN will not hesitate to "take action against companies taking advantage of the current situation by cartelising or abusing their dominant position."
Besides the ECN's joint statement, several national competition authorities have individually published information and guidance on how they will apply competition rules in the context of the ongoing crisis. From the countries covered by Schoenherr's expertise, the national authorities of Hungary, Poland and Romania have already (as of 2 April) taken concrete action by launching investigations in this regard. We list the authorities' respective activities in the table below.
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