The Commission recognises that joint procurement agreements can often promote competition by allowing smaller competitors to achieve purchasing savings similar to those of large competitors, which can lead to increased competition, for example in the form of lower prices and/or quality products or services. Overall, the vast majority of team agreements do not pose significant competition problems. However, some team agreements have the potential to significantly impede competition. Companies should carefully evaluate these agreements by analyzing the rest of the competition, the team`s complementary benefits and likely customer reviews of the agreement. The defined types of common production and specialization agreements are covered by the revised Category Exemption Specialization Agreement (SBE).6 In addition, the guidelines are guidelines. Specialization is when one party stops producing or reducing a particular product and buys it from the other (this can be done on a reciprocal basis if each producer withdraws from a market and buys the products from its competitor, or unilaterally). Irrespective of this risk, the Commission has established a relatively clear framework in which agreements can be concluded between competitors involving joint production, joint purchase or sale/marketing, or cooperation with respect to R and D or RPR licences. These agreements are increasingly being used to provide cost-effective alternatives to mergers and/or to create other effective means to achieve business objectives through cooperation, and can be designed to minimize any risk of relevant competition from the outset. In this context, it is important to ensure that the licence does not contain severe competition restrictions set out in the TTBE. The existence of such restrictions is extremely difficult to justify under Article 101, paragraph 3, and should nullify the entire licence and expose the parties to the risk of fines and actions for damages from third parties. Among the restrictions on a IPR licence between competitors under the TTBE, it should be noted that, in its succinct April 2010 opinion on a joint purchase agreement between Palmer and Harvey McLane and Makro-Self-Service Wholesalers, the Office of Fair Trading (predecessor of the UK Competition and Market Supervisory Authority), it should be noted that a more user-friendly approach to joint purchasing has been adopted. In particular, it found that standardisation agreements are not without the risk of competition. The following four specific negative effects are highlighted in the guidelines: State contractors and other companies in this area should be aware of the particular risks and challenges associated with antitrust rules they face when considering acquisitions or other business practices.
Companies should be advised on activities that may pose a high risk to cartels and abuse of dominance, including reviewing a merger or acquisition, forming an association agreement, or reviewing an agreement that may limit the hiring or compensation of staff. As noted above, prudent compliance efforts can reduce the risk of an investigation or action to implement cartel rules and potentially costly and cumbersome abuse of dominance. The DCAA memorandum, which also implements Gansler`s memorandum, stresses that the mere existence of an exclusive association agreement does not only create anti-competitive activities.