"What do competition lawyers do?"

What is competition law?!

The purpose of competition law is to maintain market competition by regulating and preventing anti-competitive behaviour by organisations. 

Competition law and regulation ensures that the consumer market is fair for both consumers and producers. 

This area of law is the most closely intertwined with EU law and contains both domestic and EU legislation. 

The regulation works as follows: 

  • the UK regulatory bodies will concentrate on anti-competition rules that have an effect domestically; and

  • the EU authorities will deal with matters affecting multiple member states. 

Competition and Markets Authority ("CMA")

CMA was established as the UK's main regulatory body in April 2014. CMA is an independent non-ministerial department and is responsible for ensuring consumers get good deals when buying goods and services and businesses operate within the law.

CMA will:

  • investigate mergers between organisations to make sure they do not reduce competition;

  • investigate entire markets if they believe there to be competition or consumer problems; 

  • take action against businesses and individuals that take part in cartels or anti-competitive behaviour;

  • protect consumers from unfair trading practices; and

  • encourage government and other regulators to use competition effectively on behalf of consumers. 

Competition law in practice...

Competition law can be broken down into the following categories: 

  •  Antitrust - this includes: 

(a) anti-competitive agreements between companies and cartels; and

(b) monitoring companies with a dominant position in a certain market - companies with a monopoly or large market share have a responsibility not to abuse their advantage by making prices unaffordable or excluding others from the market. 

  • Merger control - whenever a merger, acquisition or joint venture is proposed, it has to be examined to make sure that it will not dominate the market and stop potential competition. 

  • State aid - lawyers will advise private sector and government clients on all aspects of state aid matters across a broad range of sectors, including investigations, transactions and litigious proceedings. 

"State aid is any advantage granted by a public authority through state resources on a selective basis to any organisation that could potentially distort competition and trade in the EU."

  • Litigation - competition litigators will advise on damages claims in the Competition Appeal Tribunal and the High Court and generally act on appeal proceedings including appeals to reduce fines imposed for cartel infringements by CMA. 

What do competition lawyers do?

A competition lawyer will need to understand the market within which their clients operate and how their business works (including an in-depth knowledge of its customers, suppliers, manufacturers etc). 

Typical tasks include:

  • advising clients on whether their merger/acquisition/JV (joint venture) plans are compliant with competition regulations - including liaising with regulators and making judgement calls; 

  • advising on the structure of commercial or co-operation agreements to ensure they are not anti-competitive; 

  • advising on cross-border trade and anti-dumping measures; 

  • investigatory work into merger controls and cartels (including extensive research and drafting and talking to experts); 

  • bringing/defending claims in the Competition Appeal Tribunal; and

  • negotiating and obtaining clearance for mergers, acquisitions and JVs.