The European Union’s (EU) national competition authorities (NCA) and the European Commission have agreed upon best practices on cooperation in cross-border mergers. The best practices’ stated aim is to enhance cooperation in merger cases where the European Commission Merger Regulation does not apply and the merger needs to be notified in more than one EU Member State.The best practices follow a public consultation on draft best practices started earlier this year.
The best practices do not make cooperation between NCAs compulsory. The merging parties will not be able to insist that NCAs should cooperate in a multi-jurisdictional filing. Rather, NCAs will apply them in cases where they think cooperation could be beneficial for the NCAs, the merging parties and third parties, in particular where the merger raises similar comparable jurisdictional or substantive questions and concerns similar or the same product markets.
The best practices discuss a number of areas and instruments for facilitating a multi-jurisdictional merger review process, such as:
- Exchange of certain basic non-confidential information
- Aligning timelines in the review process and with regard to remedies
- Regular contacts and updates between NCAs with regard to timing and with regard to decisions to open in-depth investigations
- Dicussions of substantive analysis such as market definitions or possible anti-competitive effects of the merger
Merging parties are encouraged to contact each NCA where the merger will be filed and provide them with basic information, such as the jurisdiction where the merger will be filed, the date of the proposed filing and the sectors involved, to facilitate cooperation among the agencies. Also, the best practices support joint pre-notification contacts where useful. The best practices further highlight, that it will be for the merging parties to coordinate the timing and also the substance of possible remedies, e.g. where a remedy accepted in one Member State has an impact on the effectiveness of the remedy in another Member State.
Most important, the best practices clearly point out that it is fully within the merging parties’ respectively third parties’ discretion to provide waivers to the NCAs to exchange confidential information, that such information will be protected under national law in all Member States and that it will not be used for any purpose other than the review of the relevant merger. To this end a model waiver form can be found in the annex to the best practises. However, it should be noted that the best practice paper states that once a waiver has been provided, the parties will not be informed about the actual scope and timing of the exchange of the confidential information.
The best practices and its annex can be accessed here.