Insights European Commission consults on draft revised rules on horizontal cooperation agreements between companies


The European Commission has launched a consultation inviting all interested parties to comment on drafts of the revised Research & Development and Specialisation Horizontal Block Exemption Regulations and Horizontal Guidelines.

The draft documents follow a review and evaluation process launched in September 2019. They aim to adapt the current rules in specific areas where the evaluation found that they were not fully adjusted to the economic and societal developments that have occurred over the last ten years, such as the digital and green transition. Further, some of the provisions in the current laws were considered rigid and complex, and the level of legal certainty provided by the Horizontal Guidelines was deemed uneven for the different types of horizontal cooperation agreements covered.

The proposed changes aim to:

  • make it easier for companies to cooperate in areas such as R&D and production by: (i) clarifying the text; (ii) adding new guidance on application of the Regulations; and (iii) slightly expanding the scope of the Specialisation Block Exemption Regulation to cover, for example, unilateral specialisation agreements entered into by more than two parties;
  • ensure the continued effective protection of competition by exempting from EU competition rules: (i) R&D agreements on new products, technologies and processes; and (ii) R&D directed at a certain objective that is not yet specific in terms of the product or technology, if there are sufficient comparable competing R&D efforts;
  • include a new chapter on the assessment of horizontal agreements with sustainability objectives, as well as new guidance on data sharing, mobile infrastructure sharing agreements and bidding consortia; and
  • simplify the administrative supervision by the European Commission and National Competition Authorities by streamlining and updating the general framework of assessment of horizontal cooperation agreements.

Interested parties are invited to submit comments on the draft rules by 26 April 2022. To read the Commission’s announcement in full and for a link to the relevant documents, click here.