COVID19

This post is also available in: Español

Given the scale of the tragedy of the COVID-19 crisis on a human level and for a large number of sectors, the implications from the point of view of competition law may seem of limited relevance.

However, businesses and individuals should be aware that competition law remains fully applicable, and the consequences of non-compliance, even under these exceptional circumstances, may be significant, including fines on companies and individuals, damages claims, bans from public contracting and even possible criminal penalties.

For this reason, we have prepared a series of posts to be published in the coming days describing the main implications of the crisis for competition law and the responses given by different competition authorities. The key considerations are as follows.

The antitrust authorities and ongoing investigations

First, despite all the difficulties, competition authorities in Spain continue to work, albeit remotely and, although time limits are formally suspended by Royal Decree 463/2020 declaring the State of Alarm, theycontinue to deal with ongoing investigations. In addition, other methods are being explored to enable progress in the processing of administrative files by using new procedures and technologies.

Similarly, although time limits in the Courts have also been suspended, such suspension will not prevent any urgent actions.

For its part, the European Commission has announced organizational changes aimed at addressing the challenge of working remotely, and in Luxembourg the Court of Justice and the General Court of the European Union have provided for extensions to certain deadlines.

Increasing vigilance and allowances for necessary solutions

Competition authorities in Spain, across the EU and worldwide have announced their intention to increase surveillance of anticompetitive agreements or abusive practices that take advantage of the current situation to apply excessive prices or other restrictions on supply, in particular in relation to products necessary to combat the virus.

On the other hand, competition authorities are also trying to contribute to the search for solutions to emerging problems such as supply shortages and access to basic goods. Specifically, the CNMC and other members of the European Competition Network have announced that some forms of collaboration being necessary for the purposes of tackling the challenge of this unprecedented crisis should be understood as permitted by law, even if they involve a restriction of competition.

Authorization of State Aids

Governments of Spain and other countries have announced aid in the form of subsidies, debt or tax forgiveness or other measures, aimed at companies and sectors affected by the crisis, and within the aim of mitigating those effects.

In this regard, in most cases such aids must be authorized in advance by the European Commission, which has adopted a Guide for Member States and even a Guide for Member States Temporary Framework related to State Aid.

However, to the extent that it is the aid recipients who are responsible for verifying the legality of any aid they receive, caution is advised before accepting any aid offered by Member State public bodies or entities.

Concentrations will be facilitated

Finally, the crisis is expected to have a significant impact on corporate transactions and their analysis by competition authorities both at national and EU level.

All in all, the crisis caused by COVID-19 could cause profound changes in markets and industries in the medium term, which will undoubtedly have major implications for competition law and enforcement. Accordingly, we will continue to report any relevant news on the blog at it arises.

Authors: Andrew Ward, Irene Moreno-Tapia, Marta Simón, Alexandre Picón

This post is also available in: Español

Autores:

Socio

55 artículos

Es socio del Grupo de Competencia y Derecho de la UE de la Firma en Madrid. Previamente, trabajó en Londres, como barrister, y en Bruselas, como asociado en uno de los más reconocidos despachos a nivel mundial. Está especializado en derecho de defensa de la competencia comunitario y español. Cuenta con una gran experiencia en control de concentraciones (notificaciones de compraventa de empresas, fusiones y acuerdos de joint venture), en el asesoramiento relacionado con investigaciones de las autoridades de defensa de la competencia y la gestión de riesgos de este tipo (incluyendo el diseño, la planificación y la ejecución de auditorías y códigos de cumplimiento, así como formación de empleados y directivos) así como en ayudas de estado y otras cuestiones de derecho comunitario.

andrew.ward@cuatrecasas.com

Socia

58 artículos

Especialista en acuerdos de distribución y abusos de posición dominante, asesora regularmente a importantes multinacionales y fondos de inversión en materia de control de concentraciones, tanto a nivel español como comunitario, asumiendo su representación ante las instancias administrativas. Ha representado y asesorado con éxito a numerosos clientes ante las autoridades españolas en materia de defensa de la competencia, en los dos ámbitos administrativo y contencioso (acuerdos, abusos, concentraciones, ayudas públicas).

irene.moreno@cuatrecasas.com

Asociada

46 artículos



marta.simon@cuatrecasas.com

Asociado

38 artículos



alexandre.picon@cuatrecasas.com