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Which agreements will qualify for exemption?

There are four criteria which must be satisfied if an agreement is to be considered exempt:

  • It must improve production or distribution, or promoting technical or economic progress – the guidance suggests that cooperation ensuring essential goods and services can be made available to the public, or an important sub-set of the public such as key workers, will satisfy this criterion.
  • It must allow consumers a fair share of the resulting benefit – the guidance suggests this will be the case where the action prevents or reduces shortages.
  • It must not impose on the undertakings concerned restrictions which are not indispensable to the attainment of the above benefits – the guidance suggests this will be the case where the cooperation is the only reasonable option due to the urgency of the crisis and where the cooperation is temporary in nature.
  • It must not afford the undertakings concerned the possibility of eliminating competition – therefore the parties must endeavour to retain competition in respect of the products (in particular price competition).

Related FAQs

Freedom to Speak up – a reminder

Has there ever been a more important time for all staff to feel that they are able to raise concerns about their working environment?

It is a pertinent time to remind all staff that they should be able to raise concerns without the fear of repercussions. It is a good time to be reviewing and re-issuing your Freedom to Speak up/Whistleblowing policy to all. Likewise it is a good time to remind all staff that they should not treat others unfairly or detrimentally for raising health and safety concerns.

Both subjecting someone to a detriment because they have blown the whistle or raised health and safety concerns (and dismissing someone for the same) is unlawful.

What do we need to do?

Privacy policy – You must make sure the relevant privacy policies deal with how you will process Covid-19 data. You should have an employee privacy policy and this may already deal with health data (if it doesn’t, it should). You might also need to look at privacy policies for customers, visitors and suppliers. This ensures that processing is lawful, fair and transparent.

Lawful processing conditions – You will need to consider which processing conditions you are relying on (remembering that you need both an Article 6 condition and an Article 9 condition – this is the part of the GDPR which deals with special category data). As a lot of the data you collect will be about employees, you can’t use consent so you will have to find another lawful reason under GDPR which allows you to process the data.

Appropriate policy document – When you are considering your Article 9 processing conditions, remember you must also have an “appropriate policy document” in place.

Processing record – Finally make sure your processing record is up to date with information on what data you collect and use.

What security will be required for CBILS?

At the discretion of the lender, the Scheme may be used for unsecured lending for facilities of £250,000 and under.

Lenders were required to demonstrate lending additionality (i.e. lending that without the Scheme, wouldn’t have otherwise taken place). The Scheme has been extended to those businesses who would have previously met requirements for a commercial facility and would not have been eligible for CBILS.  As a result  it is suggested that all viable small businesses affected by Covid-19, and not just those unable to secure regular commercial financing, will now be eligible should they need finance to keep operating.

Primary Residential Property cannot be taken as Security under the Scheme. If the lender can offer finance on normal commercial terms without the need to make use of the Scheme, they will do so.

What other financial support is there for businesses?

 Aside from the CBILS Scheme, the Government have, or are in the process of, implementing several different schemes to support businesses financially through the Covid-19 outbreak.

Is it legally enforceable?

The guidance is non-statutory and is not binding on business. However, businesses should be aware that there might be reputational consequences if they do not follow the guidance; we have already seen in the context of taking advantage of furlough funding that not being in breach of the law is no protection against negative publicity. Further to the extent a contract expressly requires parties to act reasonably, it could be expected that this guidance is one of the factors a court would consider in determining what is reasonable.