UK Competition Law Enforcement during Covid 19 - Collaborating with Competitors in a Global Pandemic
15th April 2020
3PB Pupil Barrister Georgina Dietrich writes about collaborating with competitors in a global pandemic.
UK competition law enforcement is expected to undergo drastic changes due to the implications of Brexit. The transition period started running when the UK exited the EU on 31 January 2020 and is currently scheduled to end on 31 December 2020. EU treaties, free movement rights and EU law principles, including competition rules, continue to apply in the UK until the end of the transition period.
In January 2020 the Competition and Markets Authority (the “CMA”) and businesses operating in the UK were preparing for anticipated changes around domestic enforcement once the European Commission (the “Commission”) is no longer in the picture. The CMA is expecting an increased number of larger, more complex merger cases and antitrust investigations as well as the enforcement of state aid rules at a national level. A number of commentators anticipate that the CMA will continue to align its approach with the Commission’s response in order to facilitate business beyond UK borders. Others expect a divergence of approaches over time.
Little did anyone know in January that the coronavirus pandemic was about to rear its head, a crisis unprecedented in scale and, unlike the Brexit transition period, without a definitive end date. The conversation on UK competition law enforcement has since shifted from analysing post-Brexit implications to much more existential topics: crisis cartels, rescue mergers and unparalleled levels of state aid.
This short article examines the regulators’ approach (i.e. Commission and CMA) to the practical challenges businesses may face in the area of competition law enforcement during Covid-19, in particular when collaborating with competitors.