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PR(01)30: EFTA Surveillance Authority adopts Guidelines on horizontal cooperation agreements between companies


Horizontal cooperation agreements are agreements entered into between two or more companies operating at the same level(s) in the market, e.g. at the same level of production or distribution. Horizontal cooperation agreements between competitors are potentially anti-competitive and are liable to fall under the EEA competition rules (Article 53 of the EEA Agreement[1]). The focus of the Guidelines is on cooperation. 

The Guidelines complement the two new Block Exemptions[2] concerning Research and Development agreements (R & D agreements) and Specialisation agreements, which took effect as of 1 January 2001 within the EEA. The Guidelines together with the two new Block Exemptions represent a less formalistic, more economic-based approach in the assessment of horizontal cooperation agreements. This approach results in improved guidance to market participants and ensures at the same time an effective control of agreements between companies with market power. 

The Guidelines, indicate the principles and rules which will guide the EFTA Surveillance Authority in assessing horizontal cooperation agreements under Article 53 of the EEA Agreement. They do not address all possible horizontal agreements, but are merely concerned with those types of cooperation which potentially generate efficiency gains, namely agreements on R & D, production, purchasing, commercialisation, standardisation, and environmental agreements to the extent such agreements are not covered by Block Exemptions.

The Guidelines will be published in the EEA Section of and the EEA Supplement to the Official Journal of the European Communities.

For further information please contact Mr. Tormod S Johansen (telephone 32-2-286 18 41,e-mail:

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[1] Article 53(1) of the EEA Agreement prohibits agreements between undertakings, decisions by associations of undertakings and concerted practices which may affect trade between the Contracting Parties to the EEA Agreement and which have as their object or effect the prevention, restriction or distortion of competition to the extent that conditions for exemption in Article 53(3) are not fulfilled. Article 53 of the EEA Agreement corresponds to Article 81 EC.


[2] A Block Exemption is a binding Act which on a general basis exempts categories of agreements from the prohibitions in Article 53 of the EEA Agreement. 



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