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RPM - Resale Policy Maintenance?

Wahlin, Eva-Lena LU (2010) JURM01 20101
Department of Law
Abstract
This thesis is inspired by two thoroughly debated developments in the competition/antitrust law transatlantic arena and more specifically in the field of a price-related vertical restraint known as resale price maintenance (RPM). This restraint, loosely defined, encompasses the predetermination of minimum or fixed retail prices by a manufacturer in a vertical distribution agreement.

The first development occurred in the United States in June of 2007, when the US Supreme Court in the Leegin judgment declared that RPM would no longer be dealt with under the per se rule and be perceived as restrictive of competition by very nature, but would instead be subject to a more lenient approach under the rule of reason. The second development is... (More)
This thesis is inspired by two thoroughly debated developments in the competition/antitrust law transatlantic arena and more specifically in the field of a price-related vertical restraint known as resale price maintenance (RPM). This restraint, loosely defined, encompasses the predetermination of minimum or fixed retail prices by a manufacturer in a vertical distribution agreement.

The first development occurred in the United States in June of 2007, when the US Supreme Court in the Leegin judgment declared that RPM would no longer be dealt with under the per se rule and be perceived as restrictive of competition by very nature, but would instead be subject to a more lenient approach under the rule of reason. The second development is occurring in Europe as we speak and consists of the entry into force, in June of 2010, of the Commission´s newly adopted Verticals Regulation. Up to this date, RPM has virtually been untouched by the Commission´s more modernized, economic approach towards vertical restraints in general. This specific restraint has consistently been perceived as a high-risk practice and has thus been approached stringently under the relevant EU regime. The primary question triggered by these developments is why this decisive change in approach has occurred in the US. Also, has this change left or should it leave a transatlantic trace in the European RPM regime? Finally, where is Europe headed policy-wise on this topic post-Leegin and June 2010, and why? These issues have constituted the focal point of this thesis.

In essence, the transformation on US level has substantially been influenced by developments in economic thinking addressing the competitive potential of RPM. Beyond this, the change in direction has firmly been based on factors particular to the US antitrust system. Although the new Verticals Regulation in Europe shows signs of a more progressive, nuanced approach towards this restraint, any future changes in this context will be subtle and cautious. There is still substantial economic and ultimately also legal uncertainty regarding the actual and overall impact of this restraint on competition. If overly drastic policy measures are taken towards a more lenient RPM approach, this element of uncertainty increases the risk of harm on competition and consumer welfare. At the same time, the acknowledgment that RPM does have pro-competitive potential in certain instances also increases the risk that the up-to-date stringent approach towards this restraint in Europe gradually become outdated and in need of reevaluation. So, what could constitute the European golden mean on this topic as of June 2010 and 10 years on? (Less)
Abstract (Swedish)
Detta arbete är inspirerat av två flitigt debatterade skeenden inom den transatlantiska konkurrensrättsliga arenan och mera specifikt inom ramen för en prisrelaterad vertikal begränsning känd som prisbindning. Denna begränsning, enkelt definierad, går ut på förbestämmandet av minimipriser eller fasta priser av en tillverkare i ett vertikalt distributionsavtal.

Det första skeendet ägde rum i Förenta Staterna i juni 2010, då den amerikanska Högsta Domstolen i sitt Leegin avgörande slog fast att prisbindning inte längre skulle bedömas under den s.k. per se regeln och uppfattas som konkurrensbegränsade i sig, men skulle istället vara föremål för ett mildare synsätt under den s.k. rule of reason. Det andra skeendet pågår i Europa i skrivande... (More)
Detta arbete är inspirerat av två flitigt debatterade skeenden inom den transatlantiska konkurrensrättsliga arenan och mera specifikt inom ramen för en prisrelaterad vertikal begränsning känd som prisbindning. Denna begränsning, enkelt definierad, går ut på förbestämmandet av minimipriser eller fasta priser av en tillverkare i ett vertikalt distributionsavtal.

Det första skeendet ägde rum i Förenta Staterna i juni 2010, då den amerikanska Högsta Domstolen i sitt Leegin avgörande slog fast att prisbindning inte längre skulle bedömas under den s.k. per se regeln och uppfattas som konkurrensbegränsade i sig, men skulle istället vara föremål för ett mildare synsätt under den s.k. rule of reason. Det andra skeendet pågår i Europa i skrivande stund och består av ikraftträdandet, i juni 2010, av Kommissionens nyligen antagna Vertikala Förordning. Fram tills nu har prisbindning praktiskt taget varit oberörd av Kommissionens mera moderniserade, ekonomiska synsätt på vertikala begränsningar generellt. Denna specifika begränsning har genomgående uppfattats som ett hög-risk beteende och har således varit föremål för ett strikt synsätt i den relevanta europeiska regimen. Den primära frågan som har uppstått i ljuset av dessa skeenden är varför denna bestämda ändring i synsätt har inträffat i Förenta Staterna? Därutöver, har denna ändring lämnat eller borde den lämna några transatlantiska spår i den europeiska prisbindningsregimen? Slutligen, vart är Europa policymässigt på väg i detta område efter Leegin fallet och juni 2010 och varför? Dessa frågor utgör brännpunkten i detta arbete.

I grund och botten har förändringen på amerikansk nivå väsentligen framletts av utvecklingen i ekonomiskt tänkande kring den konkurrensmässiga potentialen av prisbindning. Därutöver, har förändringen haft fast grund i faktorer som är specifika för det amerikanska konkurrenssystemet. Trots att den nya Vertikala Förordningen i Europa har visat tecken på ett mera progressivt, nyanserat synsätt i förhållande till denna begränsning, kommer framtida förändringar att ske i långsam takt och med försiktighet. Det råder fortfarande betydande ekonomisk och även då juridisk osäkerhet vad gäller den reella och övergripande inverkan av denna begränsning på konkurrensen. Om alltför drastiska policyåtgärder tas mot ett mildare synsätt på prisbindning, ökar risken för att konkurrensen och konsumentvälfärden tar skada. Samtidigt ökar erkännandet av att prisbindning kan ha konkurrensrättsliga fördelar i vissa instanser, risken att det fram tills nu gällande, strikta synsättet på prisbindning i Europa successivt kommer att bli föråldrat och i behov av att utvärderas på nytt. Alltså, vad kan komma att utgöra den europeiska gyllene medelvägen i detta ämne från och med juni 2010 och 10 år framåt? (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Wahlin, Eva-Lena LU
supervisor
organization
course
JURM01 20101
year
type
H3 - Professional qualifications (4 Years - )
subject
keywords
Konkurrensrätt, EG-rätt
language
English
id
1628140
date added to LUP
2010-07-13 20:38:06
date last changed
2010-07-13 20:38:06
@misc{1628140,
  abstract     = {This thesis is inspired by two thoroughly debated developments in the competition/antitrust law transatlantic arena and more specifically in the field of a price-related vertical restraint known as resale price maintenance (RPM). This restraint, loosely defined, encompasses the predetermination of minimum or fixed retail prices by a manufacturer in a vertical distribution agreement. 

The first development occurred in the United States in June of 2007, when the US Supreme Court in the Leegin  judgment declared that RPM would no longer be dealt with under the per se rule and be perceived as restrictive of competition by very nature, but would instead be subject to a more lenient approach under the rule of reason. The second development is occurring in Europe as we speak and consists of the entry into force, in June of 2010, of the Commission´s newly adopted Verticals Regulation. Up to this date, RPM has virtually been untouched by the Commission´s more modernized, economic approach towards vertical restraints in general. This specific restraint has consistently been perceived as a high-risk practice and has thus been approached stringently under the relevant EU regime. The primary question triggered by these developments is why this decisive change in approach has occurred in the US. Also, has this change left or should it leave a transatlantic trace in the European RPM regime? Finally, where is Europe headed policy-wise on this topic post-Leegin and June 2010, and why?  These issues have constituted the focal point of this thesis. 

In essence, the transformation on US level has substantially been influenced by developments in economic thinking addressing the competitive potential of RPM. Beyond this, the change in direction has firmly been based on factors particular to the US antitrust system. Although the new Verticals Regulation in Europe shows signs of a more progressive, nuanced approach towards this restraint, any future changes in this context will be subtle and cautious. There is still substantial economic and ultimately also legal uncertainty regarding the actual and overall impact of this restraint on competition. If overly drastic policy measures are taken towards a more lenient RPM approach, this element of uncertainty increases the risk of harm on competition and consumer welfare. At the same time, the acknowledgment that RPM does have pro-competitive potential in certain instances also increases the risk that the up-to-date stringent approach towards this restraint in Europe gradually become outdated and in need of reevaluation. So, what could constitute the European golden mean on this topic as of June 2010 and 10 years on?},
  author       = {Wahlin, Eva-Lena},
  keyword      = {Konkurrensrätt,EG-rätt},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {RPM - Resale Policy Maintenance?},
  year         = {2010},
}