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Exemptions for certain horizontal agreements

A horizontal cooperation agreement is an agreement between competing companies operating at the same production or distribution level in the market. While these agreements can and do lead to substantial economic benefits, they can also potentially distort competition. Therefore, as co-operation between competitors becomes increasingly important in today's economy, clear rules are needed to contribute to Europe's competitiveness.


Council Regulation (EEC) No 2821/71 of 20 December 1971 on the application of Article 81(3) (formerly Article 85(3)) of the EC Treaty to categories of agreements, decisions and concerted practices [See amending act(s)].


The Commission may grant individual exemptions to certain agreements, decisions and concerted practices that meet the conditions of Article 81(3) of the Treaty establishing the European Community (EC Treaty) (now Article 101(3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU)). It may also grant block exemptions by way of regulation. This regulation enables the Commission to exempt certain agreements, decisions and concerted practices by way of a block exemption.


This regulation enables the Commission to apply, by way of regulation, Article 81(3) of the EC Treaty to certain agreements, decisions and concerted practices which have as their object:

  • the research and development of products or processes and exploitation of the results, including provisions regarding industrial property rights and confidential technical knowledge;
  • specialisation, including agreements necessary for achieving it.

Conditions for the exemption regulations

The exemption regulations laid down by the Commission must meet a number of conditions. They must:

  • contain a definition of the categories of agreements, decisions and concerted practices to which they apply and specify the restrictions, clauses or other conditions which may appear in them;
  • apply for a limited period, although they may be amended or repealed;
  • apply with retroactive effect to agreements which, at their date of entry into force, might have benefited from a decision issued with retroactive effect under Article 6 of Regulation No 17 (EEC)Regulation No 17 (EEC). They do not apply to agreements that existed prior to 13 March 1962 or had to be notified before 1 February 1963.

The regulations concerned must comply with the following approval procedure:

  • a draft must be published to enable all persons and organisations concerned to submit their comments to the Commission;
  • the Commission must consult the Advisory Committee on Restrictive Practices and Monopolies before publishing a draft or adopting a regulation;
  • where the Commission, either on its own initiative or at the request of a European Union (EU) country or of natural or legal persons, finds that, in any particular case, agreements, decisions or concerted practices to which an exemption regulation applies nevertheless have certain effects which are incompatible with the conditions laid down in Article 81(3), it may adopt a decision withdrawing the benefit of the regulation.

In applicant countries, this regulation will enter into force on the date of the country’s accession to the EU.


ActEntry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Regulation (EEC) No 2821/71



OJ L 285 of 29.12.1971

Amending act(s)Entry into forceDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Regulation (EEC) No 2743/72



OJ L 291 of 28.12.1972

Regulation (EC) No 1/2003



OJ L 1 of 4.1.2003

Successive amendments and corrections to Regulation (EEC) No 2821/71 have been incorporated into the basic text. This consolidated version is for reference only.

Last updated: 17.11.2010
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