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Volume XII, Number 231

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Updated EU Competition Rules for Vertical Agreements

On 10 May 2022, the European Commission adopted new EU competition rules for vertical distribution agreements that entered into force on 1 June 2022, bringing important amendments to the current rules by partly narrowing the safe harbour but also allowing for more flexibility. Distribution agreements that are already in force on 31 May 2022 benefit from a one-year transitional period.

The new Vertical Block Exemption Regulation (VBER) and Vertical Guidelines retain the structure and substance of the previous VBER and provide parties to a vertical agreement with guidance for the self-assessment whether their agreements are covered by the VBER or may qualify for an individual exemption pursuant to Article 101(3) TFEU. Certain rules have been clarified and readjusted, in particular with regard to the distinction of exclusive, selective and free distribution. In this regard, the new rules offer more flexibility for suppliers who intend to combine different types of distribution models and wish to oblige their distributors to pass-on sales restrictions to their customers. The VBER and the Vertical Guidelines also address hotly debated topics like dual distribution, dual pricing, MFN clauses and online sales restrictions.

Companies have been given a more effective tool, but while the legal assessment of their vertical agreements will be facilitated, the assessment remains a complex exercise. Markets will continue to develop over the next 12 years, which will show whether the European Commission has crafted a flexible enough framework.

Copyright © 2022, Sheppard Mullin Richter & Hampton LLP.National Law Review, Volume XII, Number 180
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About this Author

Oliver Heinisch, Sheppard Mullin, Antitrust Regulation Lawyer, Fair International Competition Attorney,
Partner

Oliver Heinisch is a partner in the Antitrust and Competition Practice Group in the firm's London office.

Mr. Heinisch advises on all areas of EU, UK and German competition law with a focus on international cartel and abuse of dominance procedures including related antitrust litigation matters as well as merger control law. He has substantial expertise in advising on the interface between intellectual property and competition law mainly in the context of complaint cases, investigations of competition authorities and intellectual property...

32 (0) 2 290 7904
Michael Hofmann, Sheppard Mullin Law Firm, Antitrust Attorney
Associate

Michael Hofmann is an associate in the Antitrust and Competition Practice Group in the firm's Brussels office.

Michael focuses on all aspects of European and German competition law matters. Prior to joining Sheppard Mullin, he was an associate with another international law firm in Brussels. He also worked as a research associate at the Institute of European and International Business Law, University of St.Gallen HSG (Switzerland).

3202-290-7914
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