LEGAL PRACTICE: EUROPEAN UNION - UNILATERAL CONDUCT - EXCESSIVE PRICING - COVID-19

Excessive pricing during the COVID-19 crisis in the EU: An empirical inquiry

The COVID-19 crisis noted many reports of dramatic price increases of essential items such as face masks, hand sanitizers and disinfectants. In order to provide a bird-eye view of such practices around the EU and subsequent competition law responses, an inquiry was sent to all European competition authorities in June 2020. The results indicate a divergent occurrence, as well as competition law and regulatory responses, to alleged excessive pricing during the pandemic. The European approach differs from the approaches chosen in the US and South Africa, where crisis-specific price gouging laws have been enacted and applied by the competition authorities. There is room to reflect on the normative and empirical EU competition law approaches to unfair, exploitative pricing abuses, both during and beyond the pandemic.

I. Introduction 1. The COVID-19 crisis noted many reports [1] of dramatic price increases of essential items such as face masks, hand sanitizers and disinfectants, as well as food items, funeral services and so on. Already in March 2020 the competition authorities in Europe, by way of a joint statement by the European Competition Network and individual public announcements, cautioned against price gouging practices and reaffirmed their commitment to pursue such practices vigorously. [2] 2. Excessive pricing categorizes a situation where a dominant undertaking, often a legal monopolist, is able to reap supra-competitive profits, not being sufficiently challenged by normal forces of competition. The supra-competitive profits are held to produce deadweight losses and allocative

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Behrang Kianzad, Excessive pricing during the COVID-19 crisis in the EU: An empirical inquiry, February 2021, Concurrences N° 1-2021, Art. N° 98670, pp. 250-259

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