Competition law compliance in distribution and cooperation

Whatever routes to market you choose or collaborative arrangements you need to put in place, our lawyers will help you to achieve effective outcomes. Our advice will encourage growth for your business and ensure compliance with competition law.

Distribution and sourcing

The regulatory environment around distribution networks is constantly evolving. There has been a notable increase in enforcement activity by competition authorities.

Businesses need insightful but pragmatic legal advice when expanding their existing operations, moving into new markets, or redesigning their distribution models. Our team of competition law experts will help you get your products to customers in an efficient, cost-effective and compliant manner. This might involve setting up new routes to market, restructuring international distribution networks or establishing cross-border agency relationships.

Competition and cooperation

Businesses cooperate in myriad ways. For example, they may decide to work together to develop new technology, get a product to market more efficiently or meet new environmental targets. Where the collaboration is between actual or potential competitors (sometimes referred to as 'co-opetition'), there is a heightened risk that such collaboration may infringe the competition rules. This might be, for example, through transport operators agreeing to use a minimum or fixed proportion of biofuels, or energy companies agreeing to share infrastructure to reduce the environmental impact of a production process.

Our lawyers will help you find the sweet spot of cooperation and competition. Our advice will help you strike the appropriate balance between commercial opportunity and legal risk. We will work with you to ensure your business is protected while you embrace the opportunities that working collaboratively can offer.

"Osborne Clarke has got the capability to make sophisticated matters easy."

Competition/European Law client, Europe, Chambers and Partners

How we can help you

Much of our work in this field is international. We routinely work with colleagues in different jurisdictions to devise and implement cross-border routes to market and compliant international collaborations.

Our lawyers will help you achieve your commercial goals in a legally compliant manner.


Our expertise includes:

  • restructuring domestic and international wholesale distribution networks
  • drafting distribution agreements that comply with competition regulations and bring existing ones into conformity
  • shaping your distribution strategy
  • developing a direct-to-consumer offering
  • developing digitally driven distribution models
  • advising on discount, rebate and pricing strategies
  • establishing and maintaining internet retailing operations, franchise agreements and retail concessions
  • dealing with exports, imports and parallel trade issues
  • advising on the practical application of the vertical agreements block exemption regulation to distribution agreements
  • establishing pan-European direct and indirect distribution and reseller arrangements
  • advising on the implications of terminating multiple agency relationships
  • helping you resolve disputes effectively


Our expertise includes:

  • framing sustainability collaborations
  • ensuring joint purchasing and distribution collaborations deliver efficiencies
  • devising research and development collaborations that benefit from the R&D block exemption, shielding them from competition law
  • assessing whether and how a joint bid, consortia or teaming arrangement can be achieved

Our distribution and cooperation lawyers

With distribution and cooperation specialists operating across all of our 26 offices, our team is truly international. We act for clients at every stage of a product's life cycle. The businesses we work with include branded suppliers, international logistics companies, national distributors, retail networks resellers and end-of-life product recyclers. While our expertise spans multiple sectors, we are particularly known for our work in the retail sector, particularly food and fast-moving consumer goods, fashion and motor retailing.

Depending on the specific needs of your business, we will work closely with our colleagues in supply chains, intellectual property and digitalisation to provide coordinated, forward-thinking and holistic legal advice.



Supporting Miele with rationalisation, refresh and launch of its pan-EU selective distribution strategy.


Provided regular advice to technology company GoPro on distribution and competition law matters in Europe and acted for GoPro in disputes with current and former distributors.

Huntsman Corporation

Acted for global chemicals manufacturer Huntsman Corporation on a wide range of distribution-related matters in Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America, including in disputes with current and former distributors or agents.

Global consumer health product manufacturer

Supported this household name client to devise a competition law compliant global R&D collaboration with a competitor to produce and take to market a transformative portable version of their respective products, working closely with IP colleagues.