Classics Revisited: Market Definition, Horizontal and Vertical Agreements
The European University Institute (EUI) and Assonime are pleased to invite you to the Florence Autumn Competition Conference on “Classics Revisited: Market Definition, Horizontal and Vertical Agreements”. The event, which will take place on October 8, 2021, is organised in the context of the Florence Competition Programme (FCP) and the Florence School of Regulation, Communications and Media (FSR C&M).
The conference aims to gather academics, practitioners, officials from national competition authorities, EU institutions, as well as industry representatives to discuss whether and to what extent EU competition rules should be updated to meet the challenges raised by the digital economy and to ensure closer coordination with EU environmental, industrial and trade policies. In particular, the Florence Competition Autumn Conference will focus on the ongoing review by the European Commission of the Market Definition Notice, as well as of the Guidelines and Block Exemption Regulations on Vertical Agreements and Horizontal Cooperation Agreements.
Olivier Guersent, Director General of DG Competition, will deliver a key-note speech at the Florence Competition Autumn Conference.
The conference programme will be available in the coming weeks.
The digital transformation and new business models have raised new challenges with respect to market definition. Among them, for instance, there are the issues of how to assess market power in multi-sided business models or when products or services are marketed at zero monetary prices, since consumers ‘pay’ by transferring their personal data. Areas that need to be reconsidered also include how to assess the geographic dimension of relevant markets in conditions of globalisation and import competition, what is the role of market definition in innovation-driven markets and how to use quantitative techniques for the assessment of market power. The current Market Definition Notice was published in 1997 – i.e. well before the advent of the digital economy. In July 2021, the Commission has published a Staff Working Document, pointing out which aspects of the Market Definition Notice should be updated.
Horizontal cooperation agreements are key to the EU industrial policy strategy. Many cooperation agreements are not restrictive of competition within the meaning of Article 101(1)TFEU and the case-law and existing regulations and guidelines have already provided plenty of indications in this respect. However, in light of EU strategy for sustainable growth, the current Horizontal Block Exemption Regulations and Guidelines may not offer sufficient legal certainty for horizontal cooperation relating to digital developments (e.g. data pools), exchange of information and agreements pursuing sustainability goals. The approach to standardization agreements is also key to EU industrial policy. The Commission has published a Staff Working Paper, summarizing the results of its evaluation of the current Horizontal Package and an Inception Impact Assessment, which illustrates some policy options for the revision.
Vertical agreements are a further area of utmost importance for the well-functioning and competitiveness of the EU economy, which was radically transformed by the advent of the digital economy and e-commerce. The regulatory framework needs to be updated to keep up with the case-law of the Court of Justice (e.g. in Coty) and with market developments, including the growth of online sales, the adoption by suppliers of multichannel strategies, the increasing role of online platforms. Moreover, the revision of the vertical package may contribute to ensuring a more harmonised application of the rules across the EU. In July 2021, the Commission launched a public consultation on a draft Vertical Block Exemption Regulation and new Guidelines on Vertical Agreements.
The Florence Autumn Competition Conference aims at contributing to the debate on the revision of these crucial components of the EU competition law framework. The discussion of the relevant economic and legal challenges is relevant not only for the European Commission but also for national courts and national competition authorities of the EU Member States, which will be called to enforce the new rules, as well as undertakings that will have to develop their business strategies taking into account the evolution of the competition law framework.
The conference is organized in a ‘hybrid’ format: while invited speakers should be present at the EUI campus in Florence, the audience will be able to follow the conference sessions online; the conference will be broadcasted via Zoom.
Participation in the conference is free of charge. However, prior online registration is required in order to receive the Zoom credentials.