On 1 October 2019, the Belgian Competition Authority published a Guide on the "Exchange of Information in the framework of Associations of Undertakings". The Guide sets out the main principles of exchanging information between competitors and how they apply to associations of undertakings, and it looks at specific issues arising in the context of associations of undertakings.
Periodic market overview
• Market overviews based on sufficiently aggregated and historic data are a priori compatible with competition law.
• Associations of undertakings that provide market overviews to their members have to guarantee confidentiality, individual members can only have access to their own data and to the final report (e.g. by outsourcing data collection or by using a so-called black box).
Price comparison websites
• While price comparison websites are encouraged, associations of undertakings setting up such websites have to ensure that objective criteria are used to decide whose prices are stated and in which order.
• Refusing to feature an undertaking on a price comparison website can lead to anti-competitive foreclosure.
• Websites can only show actual prices and are not allowed to provide information on future prices.
Information on expected market developments
• Exchanges of future prices (or intentions) constitute a restriction by object.
• Information on expected market (non-price related) developments could amount to a restriction by effect depending on the specific circumstances (e.g. market characteristics, nature of the information and method of exchange).
Cost-calculation and price-setting models and formulas
• Pricing models based on costs can lead to collusive behaviours because they lead to similar prices, nevertheless in order to increase efficiency an association can provide its members with best practices
• Models which merely list fixed and variable costs together with other factors, which could be taken into account to set the price, are assumed to be permitted as long as each user individually determines whether it takes these costs into account and for which amount. The user should always be allowed to determine its own profit margin.
• The association is in principle not allowed to recommend prices to its members or to incentivise the exchange of individual price information.