Brexit Sunset Clause Risks Uncertainty for UK Competition Law

November 2, 2022

This blog post draws on the presentation given by Professor Catherine Barnard (University of Cambridge) at the ESRC ‘UK in a Changing Europe’, ‘UK Regulation after Brexit Revisited’ event held at the British Academy in London on 27th October 2022.

(by Andreas Stephan) The UK’s new Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, promised to put EU laws through the ‘shredder’, as part of the leadership contest campaign video he released in August when running against his predecessor, Liz Truss. The Retained EU Law (Revocation and reform) Bill (REUL) promises to impose a sunset clause on 2,400 or so pieces of retained EU law, which will cause them to cease applying in the UK unless ministers actively act to keep them. This includes all secondary law (regulations and directives) and related case law of the European Commission and Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU), which plays an important role informing UK Competition Law (at least to the extent that it relates to EU case law delivered until 31 December 2020). This blog explains why the law could create significant uncertainty for the enforcement of UK competition law and what might be done about it.

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Are vertical restrictions on the use of trademarks in online search advertising always anticompetitive? The European Commission’s Guess decision

May 13, 2020

(by Elias Deutscher)[1] Can the owner of a well-known brand lawfully prevent its independent retailers from using its trademarks and brands to advertise their products on Google? This question has major implications, in particular, for small- and medium-size retailers who largely benefit from the reduced costs of online search advertising and the new sales channels offered by online distribution. For quite some time, issues surrounding the use of trademarks as keywords in paid online search advertising have stirred considerable controversy amongst trademark and IP lawyers. Recently, this question also came into the focus of competition law enforcers. In the Case AT. 40428 Guess,[2] the European Commission assessed for the first time the legality under European Union (‘EU’) competition law of a vertical agreement whereby a trademark proprietor restricted the ability of its licensed distributors to use or bid for its brand names and trademarks as keywords in Google AdWords. Read the rest of this entry »

Flight Centre: Australian High Court finds agent competed with principal and breached cartel laws

January 9, 2017

(by Julie Clarke[1]) On 14 December 2016, Australia’s highest court (the High Court) determined, by majority, that Flight Centre, a travel agent, competed with airlines for the supply of airline tickets and that, as a result, its attempts to induce the airlines to lower their direct-to-public ticket sales constituted unlawful price fixing. Flight Centre markets itself as offering a ‘Lowest Airfare Guarantee’. In attempting to induce the airlines not to discount tickets sold direct to the public, it was found to be in competition with the airlines and therefore subject to a per se prohibition rather than a full effects analysis. The treatment of travel agents and other similar arrangements falls into somewhat of a grey area in Competition Law.  Are the agents competing horizontally with their suppliers in selling to consumers, or are they better seen as vertically related retailers, or even as de facto employees?  This is important because horizontal cartels are almost universally per se illegal, often with criminal sanctions, vertical price fixing (e.g. RPM) has a much more mixed and nuanced legal position, and employees are completely exempt (a firm is free to set prices that all its salesforce must implement). In Europe, genuine ‘agency agreements’ fall outside the scope of Article 101 TFEU, even though they may contain clauses that can produce anticompetitive effects, such as minimum pricing.[2] This blog analyses the significance of recent developments under Australian Competition Law. Read the rest of this entry »

Drug prices post-Brexit – an expensive pill to swallow?

June 15, 2016

(by Farasat Bokhari) Much has already been written about the potential effects of Brexit on both the British economy as well as the rest of the word, vis-à-vis effects on immigration, employment, wages, inflation, investment, growth and so forth, and by now we know that either the sky is going to fall or it will be like manna falling from the sky.  Definitely one of those two.  Reality however is a bit more nuanced, and what follows may be sector specific and depend on the regulations and terms that are negotiated upon exit.  Post exit, will the UK be on its own in terms of trade agreements with the rest of the world, or will it, like Norway, be able to enjoy benefits of a single market by entering into European Economic Area (EEA)? Not to be gauche, how does it affect the price of my medicines here in the UK?   While the Farage v. Cameron debate rages on, in this blog I give example from just one sector – pharmaceuticals – to discuss how prices of branded drugs, which include new and important therapies, may increase due to various trade agreements post Brexit. Read the rest of this entry »

Other web browsers are available: The EC case against Google

April 26, 2016

(by Richard Cadman) On 20th April 2016, the European Commission (EC) sent a Statement of Objections to Google outlining its view that Google had breached EU antitrust rules by imposing restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile network operators (MNOs). This post briefly discusses the economics of this case and draws a parallel with the EC case against Microsoft (Case COMP/C-3/37.792), but also identifies two key differences. Read the rest of this entry »