Competition and Consumer Law

Competition law affects all sectors of the economy and comprises rules that are intended to prevent anti-competitive agreements like cartels, and abuses of a dominant position. Competition law also includes merger control.  

Your company can become the target of competition investigations and, to avoid falling on the wrong side of the law, you should ensure that you instil a strong culture of compliance within your organisation. If you do face an investigation, you will need expert support. We can help on both fronts. 

Competition law can also be a weapon if you face unfair behaviour by platforms, suppliers or customers. We can help you map out an effective strategy to deal with such issues and have been shortlisted in the FT Innovative Lawyers awards for this service. 

Consumer law seeks to protect consumers from misleading or aggressive practices by companies. Your company may be investigated for alleged breaches of consumer law and be subject to court action, legally-binding undertakings or substantial fines.

Commonly asked questions

What is a cartel and what are the consequences if my business is being investigated? 

Cartels are agreements or more informal arrangements between competitors that distort competition. This can range from price fixing to agreements on public bids (bid rigging or cover pricing) and from market sharing to simply exchanging sensitive information. Cartel investigations can impact all levels of your business and can lead to high fines, director disqualification and even criminal prosecution. With our team of former regulators, we have deep experience from the first inspection to the final appeal in these cases.  

What is a vertical agreement and how will it affect my business? 

Vertical agreements are agreements between your business and businesses at different levels of the supply chain, such as manufacturers and distributors. They include franchise agreements and exclusive distribution agreements. Most vertical agreements create no competition issues. However, there are some issues that can come under scrutiny of competition authorities and lead to fines and other negative consequences, including for directors. You will need to carefully assess whether your agreements with businesses at different levels of the supply chain could be problematic to avoid these issues.  

What is a horizontal agreement and how will it affect my business?  

Horizontal agreements are those between your business and parties at the same level of the supply chain, such as agreements between competing manufacturers, distributors or retailers. They include joint ventures, joint bidding, R&D agreements and co-operation agreements. In some cases, horizontal agreements may infringe competition rules, attracting high fines, so businesses will want to assess them carefully. New rules have been drafted in recent years to cover issues such as co-operation between competitors with sustainability objectives. It is difficult to navigate these rules. The consequences of falling on the wrong side of the law could be that you are investigated by the competition authority or that your agreement is found to be void by a court. It is essential to avoid this through careful design of contracts and managing expectations both internally and externally.  

What is abuse of dominance and how will it affect my business? 

Under competition law, companies that are dominant in a given market have a special responsibility to ensure that their conduct does not harm competition. Abusing a dominant position may attract high fines, lead to significant changes in how the company concerned operates and result in large damage payouts to customers or consumers. To avoid this, it is essential to ensure you can deliver on your commercial objectives while complying with the rules. 

What are market studies and market investigations and how will they affect my business? 

These are tools most prominently used by the UK authorities, but which are being rolled out elsewhere too. They involve the authority investigating whether competition is working well for consumers and, if they find concerns, they have wide-ranging powers to alter the way an industry works and even to break up companies. Market investigations could therefore have a direct impact on how you run your business or, if your business is held back by competition issues, these investigations could be an opportunity to bring down barriers. All players in the relevant industry should take them seriously and engage to get their point of view across.  

What is a consumer law investigation and how will it affect my business?

Companies may be investigated by the regulator for alleged breaches of consumer protection law. These investigations can be onerous to deal with, and result in adverse publicity. They can also result in court action, legally-binding undertakings, or consumer compensation. In the UK, companies will soon be potentially subject to substantial fines of up to 10% of group worldwide turnover for breaches of consumer law.

Who we work with

We help companies active in a broad range of industries, including broadcasting, sports, automotive, chemicals, heavy industry and technology. We advise on distribution strategies, negotiate vertical agreements, and represent clients in competition law investigations. 

We advise clients on all types of horizontal cooperation agreements, such as R&D agreements, joint purchase agreements, and mobile telecommunications infrastructure sharing agreements.  

We can also represent individual members of staff of a company involved in a competition law investigation. 

Our experience

  • We have represented both companies and the competition authority at dawn raids in multiple jurisdictions. We also have deep experience in the further steps competition authorities will take, including interviews (both compulsory and voluntary), requests for information, procedural complaints and appeals, human rights complaints, director disqualification and substantive defense.  
  • Our firm has acted for O2 in the European Commission’s investigation regarding the network-sharing agreement for 3G and 4G networks between CETIN, T-Mobile and O2 in the Czech Republic. After a lengthy investigation, the case was resolved through commitments. This case offers a blueprint for future network-sharing agreements in the EU and elsewhere.  
  • Our firm has been involved in most of the competition law investigations launched by the CMA and European Commission concerning practices that affect digital markets.  
  • Members of our firm firm have represented companies in leading European Commission investigations against Qualcomm, Microsoft (Internet Explorer), CEZ, Slovak Telekom, and Google (Ad Tech). 
  • Our firm has represented companies in the UK Competition and Markets Authority investigations against Google (Privacy Sandbox), Google (Ad Tech), Google (PlayStore), and Apple (App Store). 
  • Our firm has represented the successful complainant in the French Autorité de la Concurrence investigations against Google (AdTech) which resulted in a fine of $220 million, and the complainant in its investigation into Apple’s App Tracking Transparency measures. 
  • On the litigation side, our firm has been involved in several leading EU Court of Justice cases, such as Huawei v. ZTE and Slovak Telekom, and several damages claims’ actions, including Claudio Pollack v. Google.  
  • As part of their work at the CMA, members of our team have led major investigations in the pharmaceutical sector such as Phenytoin and Hydrocortisone, including successfully defending the first ever challenge against a warrant to enter business premises. 
  • As part of their work at the CMA, members of our team have led compulsory interviews and hearings. They can prepare your staff for formal engagements with the competition authority and represent individuals in interviews.  
  • Our team has been involved in most of the UK’s more significant market studies and market investigations, including the retail banking market investigation, the online platforms and digital advertising market study and the mobile ecosystems market study. 
  • Our team led consumer law investigations when they worked for the CMA. We now have experience of defending companies under investigation for potential consumer law infringements, and advising companies on their compliance with consumer law.

How we can help

We can help you to ensure that your agreements and practices comply with competition law and defend you and your employees when under investigation.  We can develop effective arguments, draft persuasive submissions to the competition authority and liaise with them to ensure a satisfactory outcome.  We can help to prepare you for competition authority interviews and hearings and can challenge competition authority actions and decisions in court. 

If you are a competitor or a customer of a company infringing competition law, we can help you to submit a complaint to a competition authority that may investigate the issue. We may also help you to claim damages in court for losses you suffered as a result of the infringement.  

We design informative and engaging competition law compliance programmes, drawing on our experience as former regulators to bring the training to life. 

We can help you to ensure that your agreements and practices comply with competition and consumer law and defend you and your employees when under investigation.

Our Team

We are leading competition lawyers who are experienced in these issues on both the private sector side and the competition authority side.


Damien Geradin

(+32) 471 17 95 25