On 8 September, the European Commission (EC) published a working paper from the Commission`s services summarising the results of its assessment of the Vertical Category Exemption Regulation (VBER) and accompanying vertical guidelines. The results show that the VBER and the guidelines are useful instruments for companies to assess their own compliance with EU competition law. However, since the introduction of the VBER and the guidelines in 2010, the market has changed significantly, due in part to growth in online revenue, the increased role of online platforms and changes in distribution models. As a result, the EC`s assessment highlighted a number of problems with the VBER and the guidelines to be addressed. Below are the main themes identified and the likely priority areas for the EC at the beginning of the next phase of its review. Vertical agreements are agreements between companies operating at different levels of the production or distribution chain. B an agreement between a producer and a distributor. Current EU rules require companies to assess for themselves the compliance of their vertical agreements with EU competition law, which prohibits competition-limiting agreements under Article 101, paragraph 1, of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union. The VBER exempts certain types of agreements from the article 101 ban, paragraph 1, where certain conditions are met, giving companies confidence that their agreement is in line with EU competition law. An example is RPM, an area that is certainly not new to the controversy. The evaluation confirms that opinions on PMRs remain deeply divided. On the one hand, a number of stakeholders, and even some NCAs, have questioned the appropriateness of subjecting rPM to a presumption of illegality, since it has a beneficial effect on well-being in certain situations. This view is supported by the evaluation study which modelled prices in several EU Member States between 1996 and 2018 for a reference market (books) and concluded that the system of prices imposed on books led to “an increase in production and a slight drop in prices”.
As a result, consumer well-being appears to have been higher in the presence of these rpm agreements. On the other hand, the Commission notes that findings in the book sector cannot be transferred directly to other sectors. In addition, a number of NCAs continue to consider rpm to be a serious breach of the rules on cartels and abuse of dominance, which would explain why, out of 391 vertical cases handled by NCAs over the past decade, 210 (more than half) were rpm. Over the past decade, in particular, online sales have increased significantly and some online business models, such as platforms or price comparison sites, have grown in importance. It is likely that the development of the digital economy, which is probably the most significant market development since the adoption of the rules in force, will have a considerable impact on the Revision of the VBER and vertical guidelines by the Commission. The evaluation points out that with the growth of e-commerce, new types of restrictions are widespread, such as restrictions on the use of online markets and price comparison sites, as well as restrictions on online advertising or retail parity clauses. We therefore expect the Commission to concentrate much of its efforts on providing new guidelines for these issues. The evaluation also shows that in other areas already covered by regulation (for example. B resale price maintenance (RPM), territorial allocation and customers, selective distribution agreements and agency agreements, the VBER and vertical guidelines should be updated to reflect the e-commerce environment. So we can expect improvements in this area as well.
Conclusion The Commission`s assessment of the VBER and the vertical guidelines clearly shows that the Commission will not allow Atonp