The European Commission (the “Commission”) continues to encourage companies to delay any planned merger notifications until further notice in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, as it anticipates that it may face difficulties in collecting the information necessary to conduct its review, in particular from third parties such as customers and competitors. The Commission is also maintaining its relaxed rules regarding the acceptance of electronic submis- sions. Competition authorities in several Member States, as well as the UK Competition and Markets Authority, have undertaken similar measures.
While the Commission’s merger review process has slowed, and changes in market dynamics due to the pandemic may affect its assessment of the transactions currently under review, the Commission has also warned that it will not exercise a lower level of scrutiny as a result of COVID-19. In particular, on 24 April, Commissioner Margrethe Vestager remarked that companies could not expect to use the current crisis as a “shield” to acquire distressed businesses where the resulting merger would prove detrimental to consumers or delay economic recovery. She noted that the EU’s strict criteria would continue to apply to the acquisition of competing businesses.