On 25 March, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) published guidance to help organisations work together to help overcome COVID-19 pandemic.
There have been concerns expressed that competition law enforcement could impede necessary cooperation between businesses to deal with the current crisis and ensure the security of supplies of essential products and services is maintained. The CMA has therefore issued a helpful statement of its approach.
In normal circumstances, there is strict prohibition in competition law of any agreement or arrangement that might tend to restrict competition. However, the CMA recognises that the efforts being made to assist in tackling the consequences of the pandemic may involve coordination between competing businesses. This new guidance is intended to ‘provide reassurance that, provided that any such coordination is undertaken solely to address concerns arising from the current crisis and does not go further or last longer than what is necessary, the CMA will not take action against it’. However, it adds that it ‘will not tolerate conduct which opportunistically seeks to exploit the crisis’.