8th Noerr Competition Day – focus on horizontal enforcement trends, reform of the Vertical Block Exemption Regulation and antitrust compliance monitoring
At the international law firm Noerr’s Competition Day more than 150 participants from Germany and other countries – including many company representatives – discussed trends in the worldwide enforcement of antitrust law in countries such as Brazil, Japan and the USA. Two current events that also fuelled discussion were the EU Commission’s prohibition of the merger of the transport equipment and services divisions of Siemens and Alstom and the Federal Cartel Office’s Facebook ruling.
The EU Commission’s decision sparked announcements by the national governments in Berlin and Paris of joint initiatives to revamp competition law. “The Commission stayed its course by evaluating the intended merger strictly according to the requirements of antitrust law and eventually prohibiting it,” commented Fabian Badtke, head of Noerr’s Antitrust & Competition practice group. Badtke emphasised that the decision prevented competition law from becoming politicised. At the same time, he warned that merger control will need to give competition from third countries more consideration in the future.
Alexander Birnstiel, a Brussels- and Munich-based Noerr partner specialising in competition law, led a panel discussion with colleagues from Brazil, Japan and the USA on horizontal enforcement trends. The panel agreed that antitrust authorities are increasingly interacting and exchanging information on current developments on a global scale.
“Globally active companies must adapt their antitrust compliance to this development,” said Alexander Birnstiel. “Their risk of being exposed to simultaneous antitrust investigations in more than one country is increasing.”
This is another example of antitrust law’s adaptation to the digital age. Antitrust law faces significant new challenges in the form of platform business models. The panel agreed that it is important to keep markets open and to facilitate movement from one platform to another, but otherwise to be cautious about taking regulatory action.
Discussions centred on not only horizontal topics but also exchange of information between manufacturers and dealers in dual distribution systems. It is precisely in this field that participants hope for more legal certainty resulting from the imminent reform of the Vertical Block Exemption Regulation.
Last but not least: introducing antitrust compliance programmes is not enough. According to Kathrin Westermann, a Noerr competition law partner based in Berlin, continual monitoring of compliance systems is necessary to minimise the risk of competition law violations.