Last checked: 07/07/2022

Competition rules in the EU

The EU has strict rules protecting free competition. Under these rules, certain practices are prohibited.

If you infringe the EU's competition rules, you could end up being fined as much as 10% of your annual worldwide turnover. In some EU countries individual managers of offending firms may face serious penalties, including prison.

EU competition rules apply directly in all EU countries - the courts in your country will uphold them. These rules apply not only to businesses but to all organisations engaged in economic activity (such as trade associations, industry groupings, etc).

You can read about some examples of EU competition cases on the DG Competition's portal.

Illegal contacts and agreements

These agreements are known as cartels. They are forbidden because they restrict competition. They can take many forms, and need not be officially approved by the companies involved. The most common examples of these practices are:

All agreements and exchanges of information between you and your competitors that reduce your strategic uncertainty in the market (around your production costs, turnover, capacity, marketing plans, etc.) can be seen as anti-competitive.


Even disclosing this kind of strategic information unilaterally via mail, phone or meetings could be seen as infringing this rule.

To be on the safe side:

Some agreements are not prohibited - if they can be justified as benefiting consumers and the economy as a whole. One example is agreements on research & development and technology transfer. These cases are covered by the Block Exemption Regulations .

Abuse of a dominant position

If your company has a large market share, it holds a dominant position and must take particular care not to:

EU legislation

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Get in touch with specialised assistance services

Do you have questions on operating a business cross-border, for example exporting or expanding to another EU country? If so, the Enterprise Europe Network can give you free advice.

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