ERT response to the public consultation on EU competition rules on Horizontal Agreements
The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the public consultation on EU competition rules on horizontal agreements.
ERT considers that EU competition rules (including the rules on horizontal cooperation) should be considered in their wider context. We live in an increasingly interconnected world of platforms and ecosystems and we face sustainability challenges. Collaboration between firms (including competitors) is increasing for reasons of interoperability, achieving environmental or regulatory targets and developing technological as well as other standards. European companies need to cooperate with one another on a broader basis, to ensure they are able to meet the challenges of today, prepare for the opportunities of tomorrow and to ensure that European products and services are at the forefront of digitisation and environmental and social responsibility.
All of these are justified and necessary activities but concerns about EU competition law can disincentivise companies from participating in horizontal cooperation. Whilst certain digital and environmental projects and initiatives have already begun, the ERT sees a need for a more open-minded and encouraging approach to such forms of co-operation coupled with greater legal certainty to address concerns about compatibility with EU and Member State competition laws.
Building on the recent ERT paper on “Competing at Scale”, ERT submits that DG Competition should take a broader and more forward-looking approach – one which takes into account the global competition environment, technological developments and sustainability goals.
Guidance is required in order to (i) give firms confidence and clarity as to the legitimacy of any horizontal co-operation they may undertake – so that EU companies are not held back compared to their global competitors; and (ii) to promote horizontal cooperation that brings benefits to consumers.