Competition and trade law: New de minimis rules

United Kingdom
The Commission has issued a new Notice on agreements of minor importance (the "de minimis" rules). As a result, many agreements between smaller companies and those with a small market share will no longer need to be notified.

Article 85 prohibits agreements which distort or may distort competition. Agreements which potentially infringe Article 85 must be notified to the Commission unless they benefit either from block exemption or are within the de minimis rules.

By extending the scope of the de minimis rules, the Commission hopes to free up time and to assess those deals with a greater effect on the single market.

The main changes to the notice are:

  • the abolition of the ECU 300m (£204m) threshold for turnover involved in any agreement;

  • the existing 5% market share is to be increased to 10% for vertical deals (ie. operating between different levels in the market) while the market share for horizontal deals (between companies at the same level in the market) will be 5%; and

  • there will be a black list of restrictive clauses which will not be tolerated (even where the agreement is within the threshold limits), including:

    -horizontal agreements intended to fix prices, limit production or sales or divide up supply sources; and

    -vertical agreements for fixing resale prices or giving territorial protection for contracting companies or third parties.