The test for legality under EU competition rules: What guidance do the commission's guidelines provide?
Under the regime of Regulation 1/2003 on the implementation of the rules of competition laid down in Articles 101 and 102 TFEU undertakings are obliged to take care by themselves of their compliance with the competition rules. For practical purposes this is also true when it comes to the rules applicable to the the control of concentrations under Regulation 139/2004. In order to facilitate the task of undertakings, which has become even more difficult according to the more economic approach to competition law, the Commission has published a number of guidelines which are setting out the relevant criteria applied by the Commission itself. A closer look reveals, however, that the criteria defined in the various guidelines are far from reflecting a coherent, precise and consistent approach of the Commission. At least four distinct legal tests may be identified, such as a consumer harm-test, a negative market effects-test, a market power-test and a competitive process-test. This paper analyses the various guidelines in order to demonstrate how these different approaches are embedded in their wording. The unavoidable conclusion is that undertakings get much less guidance from the guidelines than they would be justified to expect. This is all the more deplorable, because the European cours' jurisdprudence continues to follow an approach which is considerably different from the Commission's.
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