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Identifying Anticompetitive Agreements in the United States and the European Union: Developing a Coherent Antitrust Analytical Framework

Alison Jones and William E. Kovacic, Antitrust Bulletin, Forthcoming

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Readers’ vote will close on February 9, 2018. Readers’ vote will allow you to nominate 1 article for each of the Awards, i.e., 10 Academic articles, 10 Business articles, and the best Soft Laws. The readers’ short-list of Academic and Business Articles will be communicated to the Board together with the 20 articles nominated by the Steering Committees. The Board will decide on the award-winning articles. Results will be announced at the Awards ceremony to take place in Washington DC on the eve of the ABA Antitrust Spring Meeting on April 10, 2018.

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Commentary in both the US and the EU has repeatedly debated whether, and when, it is more efficient to use “rules” or “standards” to determine the legality of conduct subject to the antitrust laws and how such rules or standards should be formulated. This paper concentrates principally on the question of how this debate impacts on the analytical framework for identifying infringing agreements in the US and EU. It sets out the view that the question of how agreements are to be assessed under both the US and the EU jurisprudence is unduly opaque. Confusion as to, in particular, the role and scope of per se rules, the role and scope of ancillary restraint doctrines, and how competing anti- and procompetitive effects of mixed agreements are to be balanced against each other have led to excessive complexity in the system.

The paper considers what factors might shape development of a coherent and optimal framework for antitrust analysis in a jurisdiction. Once these factors have been set out, it examines how US and EU competition law have approached the issues identified in relation to the appraisal of agreements and what features of each system have moulded the developments there. It concludes that both systems require some development to create more intelligible frameworks based on common concepts rather than historical categories of antitrust analysis and, further, that competition agencies could play an important part as catalysts in this progress.

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