European Competition law on Swiss companies

This article gives a short overview of the European Competition law on Swiss companies. Most of the Swiss companies are not aware of the rules or if they are aware think that they do not need to adhere to them. This is not true.

The European Competition law protects the European market and, thus any company that is active in the European market has to comply with the European Comptetition rules. If a competent authority (the European Competition Commission or the Competition Commissions of the member states) decides that a Swiss company has committed a breach of the European Competition law the respective award cannot be executed in Switzerland since Switzerland is not a member state of the EU and there is no treaty guaranteeing such execution. But the authorities rendering the award can prohibit the import into the European Union or force an European affiliate to pay the fine. Therefore, it might be better to comply with such award. I also describe briefly the main rules that have to be followed if one does want to comply with the European Competition law. Companies shall not cooperate in order to prevent, distort or restrict the trade between the member states of the EU. The key limitations banned by the competition law are the price fixing, sharing of markets and the limitation of production or out-put. The Competition Authorities have issued block exemption which contain for certain kind of contracts rules indicting which restrictive clauses would be tolerated and which not. The competition law is less stringent for small and medium sized companies but contains special rules regarding dominant firms abusing their market position. Moreover, the European Union has set rules under which state aids are allowed which have an influence on the trade of the member states. I recommend that Swiss companies that export to the EU make themselves familiar with the basic of the European Competition law so that they are aware of pitfalls.