Antitrust: Commission invites comments on inception impact assessment in the review of the rules on horizontal cooperation agreements

The European Commission is inviting comments on the inception impact assessment of the review of the Horizontal Block Exemption Regulations, which exempt certain research and development (R&D) and specialisation agreements from EU rules that prohibit horizontal anticompetitive agreements between companies. After concluding the evaluation of the existing rules with the publication of a Staff Working Document on 6 May 2021, the Commission has today published an inception impact assessment, which sets out the policy options for a revision of the Regulations. The policy options include proposals to encourage the participation of small and medium-sized enterprises in R&D and specialisation agreements and the conclusion of pro-competitive R&D agreements in general. Other policy options aim to clarify the scope of the Specialisation Block Exemption Regulation. In addition, the Commission identified several areas for revision in the guidelines on horizontal cooperation agreements. These areas address the need to provide additional guidance on data pooling and data sharing, and on horizontal cooperation agreements that pursue sustainability goals. Horizontal cooperation that is pro-competitive on balance is essential for the digital and green transition and the review aims to ensure that the EU’s rules remain fit for purpose. Stakeholders can comment on the inception impact assessment on the Commission’s Better Regulation Portal until 5 July 2021. Then, the Commission also plans to launch a public consultation inviting stakeholders to comment on the policy options and the revision of the Horizontal Block Exemption Regulations and guidelines on horizontal cooperation agreements in the summer of 2021.