The new law makes certain substantial adaptations to the procedures before the French Competition Authority. However, the Constitutional Council quashed the structural injunction procedure in the retail sector in metropolitan France, which, according to the bill, could have been set up by the Competition Authority independently from any abuse of a dominant position.
Settlement in procedures relating to anti-competitive practices.
The "no challenge" procedure is replaced by a settlement procedure which offers greater predictability to companies with regard to the level of the reduction which may be granted to them. It is now stipulated that when an organization or company does not challenge the objections of anti-competitive practices notified to it by the Competition Authority, the general case handler may submit to it a settlement proposal stating the minimum and maximum amount of the contemplated financial penalty. If, within a period fixed by the general case handler, the organization or company agrees to the settlement proposal, the general case handler proposes to the Competition Authority to order the financial penalty within the limits fixed by the settlement. However, the improved predictability of the penalty will only be effective if the range proposed by the company is relatively limited.
Merger review periods by the Competition Authority.
The Macron law allows the Competition Authority to suspend the review period of a merger when (i) the parties to the notification have failed to inform it of a new fact upon the occurrence thereof, or (ii) have failed to communicate to it all or part of the information requested during the formal review procedure within the given deadline, or (iii) when third parties have failed to communicate to it the requested information for reasons attributable to the parties having made the notification. The expiry of this suspension remains vague insofar as the new law merely indicates in this respect that these periods will resume "upon the disappearance of the cause justifying the suspension". It is to be hoped that this will not deprive of all efficiency the pre-notification procedure which today allows the parties to ensure in advance that their file is complete and to organize the closing date of their operation as from the formal notification date.
Anti-competitive practice with a local dimension.
The Competition Authority can now reject a referral when the facts involved can be treated by the DGCCRF (administrative body of the Ministry of Economy) and therefore have a local dimension. It should be recalled that the DGCCRF is competent to rule on practices which affect a local market (without of course affecting trade between Member States) and provided the turnover realized in France for each of the authors of the anti-competitive practice does not exceed €50 million.
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