The Vertical Agreements Block Exemption Regulation ("VABER") will expire on 31 May 2022. As a result, the European Commission has formally commenced its evaluation of the VABER in order to inform its decision on whether to allow it lapse, prolong its duration or revise it, in particular to take into account the increased importance of online sales and market players such as online platforms. As a first step, the Commission has published a roadmap (i.e., an outline of the scope of the Commission's proposed evaluation) and invited feedback from stakeholders on the proposed evaluation. Feedback must be submitted by 6 December 2018.

According to the roadmap, the Commission's investigation will focus on evaluating the following: (i) the effectiveness of the VABER's current provisions (for example, whether the hardcore and excluded restrictions effectively capture agreements unlikely to satisfy Article 101(3) TFEU); (ii) the efficiency resulting from the VABER, in particular whether it has reduced costs for undertakings and competition authorities in ensuring compliance with Article 101 TFEU; (iii) the relevance of the VABER in light of new market developments; (iv) the coherence of the VABER with the Commission's overall enforcement policy; and (v) the extent to which the VABER has contributed to a consistent application of Article 101 TFEU to vertical agreements in EU Member States.

The next steps in the evaluation process are public consultations which will be launched at the beginning of 2019 and through which the Commission hopes to receive information from business, consumers and EU competition law enforcers on the key competition issues arising in vertical relationships. In late 2019, an open stakeholder workshop will be held on areas of particular interest for the possible review of the VABER. Finally, the Commission plans to hold discussions with the competition authorities of the EU Member States in the framework of the European Competition Network.

The Commission intends to complete the evaluation in the Spring of 2020.

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