What We Do
All sectors of the economy are affected by competition law, which includes state aid law. In this area we advise a diverse client base including private, public and third sector entities.
Competition law changes constantly, with the most recent development being the creation of the new regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority. The new authority is expected to be proactive in enforcing competition law, and we are ready to support your organisation against this backdrop of active regulatory scrutiny.
Issues on which we advise include:
- Anti-competitive agreements
It is routine for commercial contracts, joint venture agreements and some corporate transactional documents to contain provisions which restrict the future activity of one or more parties. These and other arrangements can cause a breach of the UK and EU rules against anti-competitive agreements. We will ensure that you stay compliant and do not make agreements in breach of competition law.
- Abuse of a dominant position
A dominant position is not in itself unlawful. However, using this position to undermine competition in that market may well be. We can advise you if your business has been negatively affected by a dominant market player, or if your business requires advice because of its strong position.
- Criminal offences (including price fixing and criminal cartel liability)
We advise businesses, individual managers and directors on the risks of criminal liability arising under the competition regime, as well as those subject to enforcement activity or prosecution.
- State Aid
EU law prohibits the giving of subsidies by the state, if the effect is detrimental to competition in the marketplace. We help clients manage state aid issues that may arise in situations such as applying for public sector grant funding.
How Our Competition And State Aid Lawyers Can Help
State aid advice has become an increasingly important part of our practice, and affects public and third sector clients in particular (with state funding having come under the spotlight since the economic crisis in Europe and the public sector bail-out of the banking system).
We take a practical approach based on your business requirements and the need to be cost-effective. In most cases it is possible to structure commercial arrangements so that they comply with the competition law regime.
We also appreciate the difficulty caused by jargon in this area of the law. Part of our job is to demystify the legal terminology and empower you to manage issues independently, as far as possible.
Where there is a risk of a breach (either by your organisation or another party), we will be able to advise on the appropriate steps to take. Our regulatory lawyers are skilled in representing clients who face criminal enforcement action.
Recent Competition And State Aid Matters Include:
- Advising a provider of online services in relation to the competition law issues arising in the context of its proposed arrangements with suppliers
- Advising a professional body on the competition implications of the introduction of the Health and Social Care Act
- Advising a private sector service provider in relation to a challenge under state aid following a change in their market caused by the provision of public money to competitors
- Advice to charities in receipt of public funding, enabling them to confirm to public sector grant providers that they were not in breach of state aid law