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What form does the relaxation take?

The European Commission has reintroduced its “comfort letter” system for cooperation in relation to shortage of supply. This allows cooperating businesses to check what the Commission’s view of their proposals are before implementing them.

In the UK context the SMA has introduced an exemption for suppliers of healthcare services to the NHS. This allows:

  • Sharing information about capacity
  • Coordination of staff deployment
  • Joint purchasing of goods, services and facilities
  • Sharing or lending of facilities
  • Division of activities, including agreeing whether to expand or reduce the volume or type of services provided by suppliers

In relation to whether the CMA will investigate cooperation, it has indicated:

  • The CMA will use its discretion as to the prioritisation of its enforcement action to permit some agreements/collaboration which would otherwise potentially give rise to enforcement action (including potentially attracting fines of up to 10% of group worldwide turnover)
  • The CMA will use its existing power to exempt certain agreements under the Competition Act 1998 where these are in the public interest

Related FAQs

How are the Courts applying the new guidance?

Overall it is our experience that the Courts are quickly adapting in the context of the Coronavirus epidemic and making pragmatic decisions. The Judges seem live to the difficulties currently been faced by practitioners dealing with litigation and they are applying the new guidance.

The Courts are also mindful of pressures on NHS frontline staff and are taking steps not to put additional pressures on them at this time, including in our experience vacating an imminent Trial.

How much notice do I need to give people to return to work?

There is no minimum period of notice you are required to give employees of their return, but from a good HR practice point of view you should be speaking to your staff and letting them know what the plan is; giving people a reasonable amount of notice of return will allow them to prepare both practically and psychologically.

Should you rely upon Statutory Demands issued after 1 March to present a Winding Up petition?

No. No action need be taken in relation to the demand but we would advise against presentation of a petition based upon any Statutory Demand issued between 1 March 2020 and the end of the restrictions. As you may be aware, with Winding Up there is no requirement to issue a Statutory Demand notice before proceeding so this is unlikely to create too many issues – click here to see whether you should issue petitions on other grounds.

There is nothing to prevent statutory demands being served at this time. However, there may be limited benefit as it cannot form the basis of a future winding up petition.

How have competition law rules been relaxed in the light of the coronavirus outbreak?

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has issued a number of guidance documents about the application of competition law rules during the coronavirus outbreak. In general, the competition law rules are being relaxed in very specific circumstances.

I submitted my online visa application but couldn't book an appointment, what should I do?

Normally, once you have submitted the online visa application and paid the fee, you have to attend an appointment to enrol your biometrics and verify your passport within 45 days. This requirement has been relaxed due to the visa application centres being closed.

Now that application centres have mostly reopened, you must book and attend an appointment to complete the application process. However, the Home Office has recently introduced the IDV app which allows applicants who previously gave their fingerprints as part of a previous application since July 2015, to upload a photo electronically. There will then be no need to attend a Visa Application Centre to submit their biometrics. Applicants who are eligible to use this electronic option will be contacted by UKVI.