ACM explains in the Guidelines Sustainability Agreements that certain types of collaboration do not restrict competition and are therefore already permissible, such as agreements to introduce certain quality marks and labels or joint agreements to comply with laws in other countries, such as bans on child labor or illegal logging.
In cases where agreements do restrict competition, they will be permitted if certain conditions are fulfilled. One such condition is that the benefits of the collaboration must outweigh the disadvantages. The benefits could include lower carbon emissions; the disadvantages could include a price rise for users. A new feature in these draft Guidelines is the way in which these benefits are weighed against the disadvantages.
Under the new rules, the trade-off is different: the benefits for society as a whole must be equal to or greater than the disadvantages for users. If the benefits for all of society are taken into account, they will more quickly outweigh the disadvantages. The agreement will then be permitted, because society as a whole benefits from it and it contributes to the government’s objectives.
Collaboration is permitted in some cases after a thorough analysis
The Guidelines also include some simplified conditions. For example, it is no longer necessary to a carry out a numerical analysis in all cases. In some cases it will be sufficient to give a full account of the benefits and disadvantages, for example if the combined market share of the businesses entering into the agreement is less than 30% or the benefits clearly outweigh the disadvantages.
No fines, but we may ask for changes
ACM will not impose any fines for joint agreements where businesses have clearly followed the Guidelines in good faith but ultimately do not meet all the conditions. In the first place we will ask for the agreements to be amended.