Competition law enforcement remains high across the UK and the EU. We provide support to clients across the board, from devising bespoke compliance systems that are appropriate to each client, to advising on the competition law risks arising from commercial strategies or agreements.

We also recognise that things can sometimes go wrong and our team is adept at dealing with competition and antitrust investigations before the UK and EU authorities – whether helping complainants or defendants.

In an increasingly complex business environment, compliance with competition law remains business-critical - all the more so given the active stance of competition authorities flexing their investigatory muscles, sometimes in areas which have been off the agenda for a number of years. As competition law infringements attract very hefty fines, and because certain offences in the UK also give rise to personal, criminal liabilities, sound advice on the boundaries of competition law has never been more important.

Our clients instruct us to advise them on the competition risks arising out of issues as diverse as supply and distribution agreements, complex joint venture or other horizontal cooperation arrangements, in-licences and out-licences of technology, abuse of dominance and antitrust investigations.

Understanding the commercial rationale for a proposed collaboration will drive a more coherent competition analysis – often empowering businesses to seek better commercial outcomes. Our deep sector knowledge of the life sciences and technology spaces undoubtedly gives us an edge, and we apply this experience and expertise broadly across our client base to help clients prepare for the markets and legal challenges of the future. Increasingly, those challenges may involve the intersection of other areas of law or regulation with competition law, be it in the context of pharmaceutical regulation, data protection or intellectual property. Many of our most significant cases have involved complex issues of this kind. Our CLIP Board blog was the first to focus on the competition law / IP interface, and reflects our in-depth understanding of this area.

Competition authorities increasingly use their powers to address perceived market failings across a sector, even where there is no specific anti-competitive conduct alleged between market participants at the outset. Market-wide investigations place a heavy burden on companies’ internal resources, often lasting for several years. Outcomes can be uncertain, and can lead to intrusive or transformative remedies as well as to competition investigations into the conduct of individual companies, with all the attendant risks.

We also assist our clients when they face individual investigations, often commenced by unannounced inspections or dawn raids. As competition authorities increasingly seek a cross-border approach to these investigations, we assist clients in ensuring a rapid, coherent and co-ordinated response to any unwelcome visits.

All companies may find themselves requiring advice on the abuse of dominance aspects of the competition rules. For larger companies, and those with a prominent market position, this may involve defensive advice to ensure that conduct remains compliant with all obligations. For smaller companies, the abuse of dominance provisions are relevant to understand what rights they may have, for example to ensure continued supply or to challenge the prices at which products or services are offered by dominant entities. We help companies large and small to understand where the boundaries lie, and what the law requires.

Key contact

Pat Treacy

CLIP Board

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Acting for a UK pharmaceutical company and music retailers in Competition Act investigations before the CMA

Advising a global audio visual brand in its settlement of an EU investigation into vertical price fixing (RPM) allegations

Advising a leading pharmaceutical company on the competition aspects arising from a wholesale review of its pan-UK distribution arrangements

Advising numerous brand owners on the implementation of coherent pan-European selective distribution models

Complaining to the European Commission in relation to possible abuses of dominance arising from conduct around licensing and assertion of patents

Advising a global tech company on how the law relating to dominance applies to platforms – and how the authorities’ new focus on digital competition and access to data may affect the sector

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What others say

“They are incredibly committed, resourceful and a delight to work with. There are no last-minute dramas, which keeps both clients and legal teams happy.”

Chambers and Partners 2020

“Their advice is practical and easy to understand; they make sense when they talk and they get where I’m coming from”.

Chambers and Partners 2020

“Notable strength at the intersection between competition law and IP, advising on key cases that test the definition of FRAND terms for the licensing of SEPs in the technology sector.”

Chambers and Partners 2020

“Bristows’ team is excellent in all areas of competition law, but it barely has a rival in issues at the interface between competition and intellectual property”.

Legal 500 2020

“Bristows is a go-to firm for competition law in the UK, especially when it comes to matters regarding patent litigation such as fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory (Frand) issues”.

Legal 500 2020

Recent rankings and awards

Competition Litigation - Tier 3
Legal 500 2020

EU and Competition - Tier 4
Legal 500 2020

Competition Law - Band 5
Chambers and Partners UK 2020

Competition Law - Band 5
Chambers Europe 2019

Competition Team of the Year
The Lawyer Awards 2017