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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