Competition law rules and procedures

Although trade associations such as the ABPI have a legitimate role in formulating public policy positions for their sector, competition law rightly limits their activities and discussions.

ABPI asks all of its staff, visitors, and guests to please follow this simple set of do’s and don’ts in relation to the organisation and conduct of ABPI meetings and business to help prevent the ABPI and its members from acting improperly.

You must comply with the below requirements; both the ABPI and participating companies can be held liable for anti-competitive conduct. If you have any queries about these rules or their application, please contact the ABPI Legal Director.

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ABPI meetings

These rules apply to all ABPI meetings.

• All meetings organised by the ABPI or on its premises or under its auspices (all of which are counted as “ABPI meetings”) must have a legitimate purpose and an assigned ABPI representative who is responsible for the compliance aspects of the meeting.

  • An agenda must be circulated in advance for all ABPI meetings – if an agenda item causes anyone concern, they should contact the ABPI Legal Director.
  • If a discussion is thought to have strayed into a sensitive area for competition law, the ABPI representative and/or any concerned attendee should raise this concern and ask that the Chair suspends and postpones the discussion in order for legal advice to be obtained.
  • Members should not discuss matters which go beyond the scope of the agenda.
  • Minutes of all ABPI meetings must be circulated and approved by the group concerned, as well as the relevant ABPI representative.

Competition law covers not just formal discussions during meetings, but also informal conversations en route to meetings, and discussions in a social context before/after meetings (e.g. over coffee during a break).

What may be discussed at meetings or as part of ABPI business

Members may generally discuss:

  • Policy development.
  • Industry public relations and/or advocacy activities.
  • Publicly available information about market trends
  • Non-confidential, technical issues relevant to the industry, such as proposed new legislation or regulatory codes of conduct etc (provided this does not lead to collusion concerning the future).
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What must not be discussed at ABPI meetings or as part of ABPI business

Competition law prohibits agreements between companies and decisions by associations of companies which have as their aim or effect a restriction or distortion of competition.

‘Agreement’ and ‘decision’ are interpreted very widely and include tacit agreements and passive acceptance of anti-competitive conduct (i.e. it can be illegal to be present during anti-competitive discussions and not to object to them). Certain types of information exchange between potential competitors are also illegal.

Do NOT engage in or facilitate any disclosure, discussion, or agreement between member companies to:

  • Fix the prices of products or conditions of sale.
  • Limit the supply of any product reaching the market.
  • Divide up the market or sources of supply or demand, in any way
  • Blacklist or boycott customers, competitors, or suppliers.
  • Bid or not bid for a tender or other agreement, or to agree the price or terms of any such bid
  • Discuss or exchange information between member companies who are competitors on any subject mentioned above.

Do NOT disclose or have or facilitate any formal/informal discussions or information exchanges between potential competitor companies on any of the below without first receiving legal advice from the ABPI Legal Director (regardless of whether the information will arise in a meeting, via a benchmarking or other survey, or by any other means):

  • Individual company prices, costs, supply and production, or terms of sale.
  • Industry pricing policies or price levels (including discounts)
  • Other current or proposed terms of trade.
  • Information about the future plans of any company
  • Matters relating to individual suppliers or customers
  • Strategy in relation to, or responses in respect of, tenders or other contracts.
  • Any other matter which would generally be regarded as confidential to a company, or the disclosure of which could reduce uncertainty in the market, or result in co-ordinated market conduct by members.

Industry standards, codes and standard terms and conditions (“common standards”)

The development of common standards can be beneficial and legitimate where they improve the quality of trade association members’ products or services, but serious problems may arise if these standards decrease competition, for example if they raise barriers to entry on the market or discriminate against particular companies. The ABPI Legal Director must be consulted on any such issues.

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Last modified: 20 September 2023

Last reviewed: 20 September 2023