The Role of Professional Associations and Lobbyists in Competition Law

Lunchtalk organised by Concurrences Review in partnership with Les entreprises du médicament, Fréget—Tasso de Panafieu and Médiation & Arguments.

Kris Dekeyser

The subject of the role of business associations in competition law is an old one. As Adam Smith remarked in 1776: "It is rare that people in the same trade are brought together, even for some pleasure or entertainment, without the conversation ending in some conspiracy against the public, or some scheme to raise prices. "Most of the activity of business associations is absolutely legitimate, but I would like to focus on problem situations.

The general framework is provided by Article 101 TFEU, which refers to decisions by associations of undertakings as well as agreements between undertakings. The case law adds that it is not always necessary to determine whether it is one or the other because both are punishable. Regulation 1/2003 provides that investigative measures apply to associations as well as to undertakings. However, special rules apply to fines: where the infringement does not relate to the activity of the association itself but to the activity of its members, the 10% ceiling applies to the total turnover of the association’s members, which may in practice lead to a call for funds from its members. Failing that, the Commission may collect the fines directly from the members. All decisions (even those concerning the establishment of rules of professional conduct) of associations of undertakings (even those without legal personality or non-profit-making) may be targeted.

Photos © Léo-Paul Ridet.

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