Volume 38 (2015) / Issue 4
This article uses the example of cover pricing to show a possible overreach of liability under Article 101 TFEU, in relation to arrangements deemed to have the ‘object’ of restricting competition. Cover pricing is where a bidder seeks a non-winning bid from a competitor so that he can participate in a tender process without securing the contract. The wide meaning of ‘concerted practice’ means that a potential breach of Article 101 may arise even where the party receiving the request refuses to provide a cover bid. It is important that a restriction by object (which leads to the finding of an infringement regardless of whether the practice was implemented or had any harmful effect) applies only to the most serious arrangements between undertakings. It is shown that cover pricing very rarely has any anti-competitive effect and indeed the alternative (lawful) behaviour, of openly announcing a non-intention to win the contract, is more likely to reduce competition. It is nevertheless treated as an object restriction, mainly because it involves direct communication between competitors of pricing intentions. Article 101 may therefore be unable to distinguish some arrangements with ambivalent effects from the most serious cartel practices. It is argued that a greater effects analysis is needed (either in applying the law or calculating penalties), to ensure fairness and proportionality.
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