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PR(98)03: EFTA Surveillance Authority adopts notices on the definition of relevant market and on agreements of minor importance for the purpose of competition law


The EFTA Surveillance Authority has adopted two notices in the field of competition law. The notices on definition of the relevant market and on agreements of minor importance correspond in all material respects to two notices recently issued by the European Commission.

The purpose of the notice on the definition of relevant market is to explain how the Authority applies this concept in its enforcement of EEA competition law. The notice provides definitions of the product market and the geographic market. It explains how the basic principles of demand and supply substitution is used in defining the relevant market, and describes the evidence relied upon and how it is being collected.

The relevant product market is defined as comprising those products regarded by the consumer as interchangeable or substitutable. The geographic market is the area in which the conditions of competition are homogeneous and different from conditions in other areas. 

The notice on agreements of minor importance replaces the de minimis notice adopted in 1994. As was the case regarding the previous notice, the purpose of the new notice is to facilitate co-operation between undertakings where such co-operation will not have an appreciable effect on trade and competition. 

The Notice states that as a general rule co-operation between undertakings on the same level of distribution do not fall under the prohibition in Article 53 (1) of the EEA Agreement if the combined market shares of the participating undertakings do not exceed 5 %. For co-operation between undertakings operating at different economic levels the corresponding threshold is 10 %. In addition the Notice states that agreements between small and medium sized undertakings as defined in the Authority's State Aid Guidelines rarely falls within the scope of Article 53 (1). 

An important change compared to the previous notice is that turnover is no longer a criterion for assessing whether a given co-operation falls under the prohibition of Article 53 (1). Thus large corporations with low market shares may now benefit from the minor importance notice. 

For further information please contact Mr Amund Utne (Competition and State Aid Directorate) on tel. 286 18 50.

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