On 9 July 2021, the European Commission published its long-awaited drafts of the updated Vertical Block Exemption Regulation ("VBER") and the accompanying Guidelines. The drafts are the result of an in-depth evaluation process that started in October 2018. The evaluation showed that many consider the current VBER from 2010 to be a useful tool for self-assessment of vertical agreements. On the downside, the review also showed that the current VBER lacks clarity and guidance on a number of topics, contains gaps, and that some parts are no longer fit for the changed (online) market realities.

With the updated VBER the Commissions intends to keep up – or rather catch up - with market developments. Important changes include the readjustment of the safe harbour in relation to topics like dual distribution, parity obligations, active sales restrictions and certain indirect measures restricting online sales. The updated VBER also aims to give stakeholders improved guidance for e-commerce and online platforms. According to the Commission this will ensure a more harmonised application of the rules on vertical restraints. With the new VBER the Commission hopes to reduce the costs of compliance for businesses, especially for SMEs.

The Commission invites all interested parties to submit comments on the draft VBER and Guidelines by 17 September 2021. After close of the consultation, the Commission will assess the evidence gathered from the impact assessment and the stakeholder comments. It expects the final revised VBER and Guidelines to be published in time to enter into force on the day after the current VBER expires on 31 May 2022.

In the August edition of our Competitive Edge newsletter, we will discuss the drafts and share our analysis with you. Should you wish to take part in the consultation, please do not hesitate to reach out if you need any assistance.

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