EU and Regulatory laws govern cross-cutting issues that impact commercial activities across borders and across sectors. The EU Commission has particular responsibility for competition law and state aids as well as for customs rules and for the EU’s external trade policy. Non-discrimination, whether applied to the free movement of goods, services, capital or of EU citizens within the common EU market, is an underlying legal principle of the EU single-market. Framework regulation of energy (and environmental) policies and of data protection law has developed within the EU and is implemented by and within its Member States. FLINN offers you access to our in-depth experience of counselling clients on the crucial legal and regulatory compliance issues that arise.
- Competition – Anti-Trust & Dominance Issues
In very broad terms, the competition rules mean that it is not permitted to: directly or indirectly fix distributors prices; divide markets, discriminate among customers or distributors by applying dissimilar conditions to equivalent transactions; tie-products or services or otherwise require unrelated supplementary obligations in relation to sales.
Any formal agreement or informal arrangement which prevents, restricts or distorts competition and which may affect trade between EU member states is prohibited.
An ‘arrangement’ does not need to be written down in a contract: side-letters, e-mails, conversations, may all be ‘arrangements’ for this purpose. Belgian competition law is in almost identical terms.
Any unilateral abuse of a dominant position within the EU or in a substantial part of it which affects trade between Member States is prohibited. Belgian competition law is in almost identical terms.
If you have any doubts FLINN is able to advise you about the application of competition law to your business. FLINN lawyers are also experienced in advising on Mergers and Acquisitions that have an EU dimension.
- State Aids
State aid implies that certain economic sectors, regions or activities are treated more favourably than others. State aid distorts competition to the extent that it discriminates between companies that receive ‘an advantage’ through state resources and those that do not. Nevertheless, granting such aid can be justified in certain circumstances.
The definition of state aid is very broad because ‘an advantage’ can take many forms. It is wide enough to include any selective economic benefit that an undertaking could not have obtained in the ordinary course of business. For example if a company obtains privileged access to finance or infrastructure.
On the other-hand the state aid rules recognize that certain kinds of investments, for example in broadband infrastructure, renewable energy, research development and innovation, may not happen without state support.
If you face the need to comment on plans that will potentially benefit a competitor or if you need advice about whether proposed benefits would be qualified as state aid that needs to be notified FLINN stand ready to provide you with clear advice.
- International Trade and Customs Law
The EU is based on a customs union which covers all trade in goods and applies a common external tariff to trade with non-member countries. It also involves the prohibition between EU Member States of customs duties on imports and exports and of any charges that have an equivalent effect.
FLINN advises on customs & trade laws including: import and export prohibitions, quantitative restrictions on imports, surveillance and protective measures under import rules; customs classification, access to the EU market and parallel imports, customs valuation procedures, customs warehousing and tariff suspension, procedures for entry of goods and post-clearance recovery of import duties.
The EU applies trade defence instruments in accordance with EU and WTO law, include safeguard measures, anti-dumping and anti-subsidy proceedings. The EU Commission examines complaints, and decides whether to launch investigations or review existing measures. Whether you wish to complain about unfair trade or need to respond to an EU investigation FLINN provides the legal services to support your business.
- Energy Law and Regulation
The EU Commission’s “Clean Energy for All Europeans” proposals, set forth in November 2016, are intended to support clean energy transition as a growth sector of the future. The legislative proposals cover energy efficiency, renewable energy, the design of the electricity market, security of electricity supply and governance rules for the Energy Union as well as a mobility strategy.
Transition from large-scale centralized power generation requires an increasing volume of variable (decentralized & intermittent) generation from renewables to be incorporated in the electricity grids. Variable renewable power generation requires greater flexibility in both generation and the electricity network itself. One important means of providing such flexibility, ‘market coupling’, enables cross-border trade in electricity across Europe. The physical links which support market-coupling are the Interconnectors which permit the transfer of electricity across borders. FLINN lawyers have actively participated in the workshops leading to the adoption of the Network Codes that provide the supporting framework for trade in cross-border EU electricity markets.
- Data Privacy
A new General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) will apply from 25 May 2018. As an EU Regulation the GDPR is directly applicable and does not, in principle, require national legislation to produce legal effects.
The GDPR embodies a new compliance philosophy which will see a stricter requirement to be able to demonstrate compliance in practice. In addition, regulatory authorities will have greater supervisory powers and tougher remedies, including fines of up to 4% of an undertaking’s total worldwide turnover.
The rights of data subjects are clarified by comparison with the existing legislation. A clear affirmative consent to data processing must be given (deeming provisions and pre-ticked boxes will no longer be acceptable). Data subjects must be provide with privacy information in clearly understandable, plain language.
In principle all sectors of economic activity will be affected and FLINN lawyers, who have long-term experience of advising on privacy rules beginning with implementation of the previous 1995 EU Data Privacy Directive, can advise you on your data-privacy programme and compliance of your web-site, contracts, transfers to third countries, including the USA.
The principle of accountability embodied in the GDPR system manifests itself in the requirements on public bodies to appoint a data privacy officer and on companies to do so where the core activities of the data controller or the data processor involve “regular and systematic monitoring of data subjects on a large scale”. FLINN can assist regarding appointment of your Data Privacy Officer.