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Experts warn against European completion law reforms

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Commercial layers and economists from a number of European nations have recently signed an open letter urging caution with regard to proposed reforms in the current EU laws governing competition.

Over 90 experts in competition la have signed the letter, which has been co-ordinated by magic circle firm Allen & Overy. The letter is in response to proposals for a change in competition law from the French and German governments, following an EU decision earlier this year to block the acquisition of French engineering giant Alstom by German rivals Siemens. The EU commission ruled that such a merger would impact on fair competition for railway infrastructure including trains and signalling. The French and German governments responded to this decision with proposals that would base acquisition and merger guidelines on a global – rather than EU-wide- basis.

The open letter makes it clear that the new proposals risk being only of benefit to larger companies and that the current rules, which value predictability and fairness, should not be changed or diluted. The letter also highlights concerns around legal certainties in competition law and the undermining of competitive EU markets. The letter says:

Improving European competition law should not mean abandoning tried and tested sound legal and economic analysis. Weakening this system — a system that has been admired and copied by many newer competition regimes around the world — will not lead to “a fairer and more effective global level playing field”. We do not believe that shifting the emphasis of European competition law bargaining power away from European consumers and other economic operators and applying different rules to European champions is the right policy or economic approach… the undersigned are all lawyers or economists, many practising competition law and advising companies — national, EU and global — on merger enforcement. While no system is perfect, and updates to improve any system must be considered, companies value the fairness and predictability of the current EU system.”

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