To encourage cooperation between firms in the area of specialisation in the production of goods and the provision of services whilst maintaining effective competition within the common market.
Commission Regulation (EC) No 2658/2000 of 29 November 2000 on the application of Article 81(3) of the Treaty to categories of specialisation agreements [Official Journal L 304 of 05.12.2000].
Specialisation agreements aim to promote cooperation between firms in the area of specialisation in the production of goods and the provision of services. This Regulation applies to:
- unilateral specialisation: one firm gives up the manufacture of certain products or the provision of certain services in favour of another participant;
- reciprocal specialisation: each participant gives up the manufacture of certain products or the provision of certain services in favour of another participant;
- joint production: the participants undertake to manufacture certain products or provide certain services jointly.
This Regulation should be read in the light of Regulation No 2821/71 empowering the Commission to exempt certain types of agreements in accordance with Article 81(3) of the EC Treaty. It is intended to replace Regulation No 417/85 of 19 December 1984, which expired on 31 December 2000.
This new block exemption Regulation diverges from the traditional approach taken by exemption regulations, which list specifically exempted clauses, and introduces an approach based on a general exemption of all the conditions in which firms conclude specialisation agreements. This approach is part of the process of simplifying and clarifying rules and regulations on which the Commission embarked in 1997.
Since cooperation in the area of specialisation generally helps to improve the production or distribution of products, to facilitate technical and economic progress, and to rationalise the manufacture and use of products that benefit consumers among others, this Regulation exempts not only agreements the primary object of which is specialisation but also all agreements directly related to and necessary for the implementation of cooperation in the area of specialisation provided that the combined market share of the parties does not exceed 20% of the relevant market.
On the other hand, the Regulation does not apply to agreements that are not indispensable to attaining the positive effects mentioned above. Certain serious restraints on competition (such as price fixing and limiting production) will continue to be prohibited in general.
The Commission reserves the right, if necessary, to withdraw the exemption granted by this Regulation.
Agreements covered by the exemption
Agreements concluded between two or more firms with a combined market share of less than 20% and aimed at pursuing unilateral specialisation between competing firms or reciprocal specialisation in joint production are exempted. However, unilateral specialisation between non-competing firms may be exempted under Regulation No 2790/1999.
The exemption also applies to exclusive purchase or supply obligations or joint distribution arrangements (not sale) of products between the parties.
Market share is calculated either on the basis of the market sales value or on the basis of an estimation of that value in relation to the preceding calendar year. If, after a certain time, the market share exceeds the threshold of 20% but remains below 25%, the exemption continues to apply for two years. However, when the 25% threshold is exceeded, the exemption applies for only one year.
Agreements not covered by the exemption
The exemption does not apply to specialisation agreements aimed directly or indirectly at:
- fixing prices;
- limiting output or sales;
- allocating markets or customers.
Withdrawal of the exemption
In accordance with Regulation No 2821/71, the Commission may withdraw the benefit of exemption where:
- the agreement does not give rise to significant rationalisation;
- customers do not benefit from the agreement;
- the products concerned are not subject to effective competition in the common market or a substantial part thereof.
In the period from 1 January 2001 to 30 June 2002, the Regulation does not apply to agreements already in force on 31 December 2000 which satisfy the conditions laid down in Regulation No 417/85.
of entry into force
|Deadline for implementation in Member States|
This summary is for information only. It is not designed to interpret or replace the reference document, which remains the only binding legal text.