Navigating the impact of COVID-19
How to manage antitrust risk
In their efforts to deal with the COVID-19 crisis, many companies are engaging in industry contacts and collaboration in order to ensure security of supplies of essential products and services, and to mitigate the risk of business failure in the face of falling revenues.
Responses from authorities include granting exemptions in specific cases or issuing guidance for companies cooperating to protect consumers, provided that cooperation is necessary to deal with the challenges they face. But at the same time, authorities are warning companies against behaviour such as excessive pricing and unfair sales practices for high-demand products, and signalling increased enforcement to tackle these infringements quickly.
Merger review can now involve significant delay and unpredictability, despite efforts by many authorities to ensure 'business as usual'. As well as the timing implications the pandemic inevitably brings, deals are now being reviewed against the backdrop of significant economic distress, combined with intensified politicisation and scrutiny of foreign investment, as governments pay closer attention to protecting their strategic assets.
State aid is of course centre-stage in the crisis, and the EU Temporary Framework, adopted in March and already twice amended, describes how the Commission will apply the state aid rules to the vast amounts of government assistance of various forms currently being provided to businesses in difficulty due to the pandemic.
We are staying close to the rapidly changing jurisdiction-specific landscape globally – see our briefings and updates below – so please get in touch with your usual contact to discuss the issues you are facing.
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If you would like to discuss these issues in more detail, please speak to your usual Freshfields contact or one of the lawyers listed below who can direct your query.