On 20 July 2016 the national competition authority in Brussels (BMA) published a guide on competition law for SMEs.
Hard core restrictions
The guide sets out the general rules of competition law and how they apply to SMEs. It identifies “hard-core” restrictions, making clear the behaviour that will be strictly forbidden by competition law in a commercial environment. Even though SMEs generally tend to fall within the scope of various block exemption regulations (Vertical Block Exemption and or the De Minimis Notice), these hard-core restrictions will never benefit from an exemption from competition law.
Continuing the focus of its 2016 competition policy, the BMA also reiterates the prohibition on bid-rigging in public tenders.
When can an SME be dominant?
The guide highlights that the mere fact of being an SME does not preclude it from being a dominant undertaking. Indeed, an SME might hold a market share above 50% in a niche market; something we particularly see in emerging technology sectors, where a start-up may have a strong position for a new and innovative product and/or where it holds IP rights.
Consequences of breach
The BMA explains the consequences of competition law infringement, including the financial penalties applied to both the companies and the individuals involved. It also highlights the growing risk of damage claims following competition law infringements.
Minimising the risk
To minimise the competition law risk, the guide stresses the importance of competition law compliance programmes and training within SMEs.
If you need any guidance on the applicable thresholds of competition law, minimising risk in contractual arrangements, or devising a tailor made competition compliance policy or training, please do not hesitate to contact us.