New Rules Applicable to Distribution Agreements: A New Competition/Antitrust Challenge for Suppliers in the EU?
By PIERRE KIRCH & JOSSELIN LUCAS
Earlier this year, the new EU Vertical Block Exemption Regulation and the accompanying new Vertical Restraints Guidelines entered into force. Their scope of application covers all agreements between economic operators at different economic levels: these are so-called vertical agreements entered into between a supplier and a distributor which have an economic effect within the European Union (suppliers from outside of the EU who export goods to distributors within the EU fall within the scope of the New Block Exemption Regulation).
The new rules have generated considerable discussion with regard to their application. Although the principles of the New Block Exemption Regulation are simple and straightforward (ten articles), the New Guidelines are quite detailed and often involve complex legal and economic reasoning (46 pages, in the version published in the Official Journal of the European Union). The New Guidelines explain how the New Block Exemption Regulation will be applied by the European Commission (Directorate-General for Competition, DG COMP) in a myriad of practical situations.