Pérez-Llorca and the Faculty of Law at the Universidad Pontificia Comillas (Comillas ICADE) organised the first session of their joint Chair on Economics and Competition Law in which several experts reflected on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the historical understanding of Competition Law and the existence of new ways to assess the conditions of effective competition in the markets.
The event was attended by Cani Fernández Vicién, President of the Spanish National Commission on Markets and Competition (CNMC); Antonio Alonso Timón, Professor of Administrative Law and Director of the Centre for Innovation in Law at the Universidad Pontificia Comillas (CID-ICADE), and Juan Jiménez-Laiglesia, Competition partner at Pérez-Llorca. Constanza Vergara Jaakkola, partner and Corporate Development Director of Pérez-Llorca, and Abel Veiga Copo, dean of the Faculty of Law (Comillas ICADE), opened the session.
Constanza Vergara Jaakkola and Abel Veiga Copo began by explaining the reasons behind the establishment of the Chair, which are to study and disseminate the legal and financial interdisciplinary nature of competition law, as well as its impact on the development of national and international markets. They also wanted to stress the importance, especially in the current context, of developing this type of forum to encourage critical thinking and research.
The co-directors of this chair, Juan Jiménez-Laiglesia and Antonio Alonso Timón, then took the floor. Jiménez-Laiglesia emphasised that this chair has been set up in such a way as to highlight the value of collaboration from the perspectives of economics and competition law. He also stressed that “we want it to be a living, dynamic and accessible institution for all”. Similarly, Alonso Timón underlined the wide possibilities offered by this chair, especially in a context in which Europe is increasingly advancing in the field of competition law, positioning itself as an international benchmark.
Cani Fernández, President of the CNMC, began her speech by highlighting the significance of this type of initiative for those who work directly in the world of competition law, as it allows for the creation of spaces for reflection, dialogue and debate on traditional problems, but in new contexts.
She went on to explain that the times of uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 crisis, and more recently by the war in Ukraine, have shone a light on the importance of competition policy. In this regard, she said that “the swift action of the CNMC, with the introduction of various instruments to mitigate and minimise the impact of the health crisis on consumers, has been fundamental”. Among the measures implemented during the pandemic, the she highlighted the ‘COVID Mailbox’, which made it possible to report anti-competitive behaviour affecting critical products or services in times of crisis, as well as the market studies on particularly stressed sectors such as insurance or funeral services.
In the area of public procurement, Fernández indicated that “the CNMC is very focused on ensuring that there is competition in all public tenders”. With regard to Ex Officio Detection, she added that “new technologies such as artificial intelligence incorporated into the work of the Economic Intelligence Unit have allowed an exponential increase in the detection of anti-competitive conduct in the markets and have improved the performance of inspections”.
To conclude, Cani Fernández reflected on the crisis’ impact on the legislative measures implemented by the CNMC. Specifically, she addressed the new regulation in digital markets and services (the Digital Markets Act and the Digital Services Act), as well as the impact of sustainability on competition law. Regarding the Digital Markets Act (DMA), she pointed out that “it will be a regulation that will coexist with competition law, which will continue to apply to anti-competitive practices in digital markets”. In the area of sustainability, competition authorities are already integrating issues unrelated to competition into their decision-making, with the aim of facilitating the implementation of policies such as the European Green Pact. In this regard, Fernández stressed that “in the area of merger control, the law already includes the concern for environmental protection and sustainability, allowing the executive to assess economic mergers on the basis of criteria of general interest”.
After this presentation, a question and answer session was held in which the speakers were able to respond to issues raised by those attending the session, such as possible restrictions on public procurement or actions related to the Law on the Guarantee of Market Unity.