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EU-Switzerland agreement on competition cooperation enters into force

The European Commission has said a new cooperation agreement with Switzerland on competition matters will “enhance co-operation in the fight against breaches of competition law”.

The agreement, which was signed in May 2013 and came into force on 1 December 2014, marks the first time that the European Union has concluded a so-called ‘second generation’ agreement with a third country. The agreement enables competition authorities “to exchange evidence they have obtained in their respective investigations”, the Commission said.

Under the terms of the agreement, the Commission and the Swiss Competition Commission will notify each other of “concrete enforcement activities affecting each other’s major interests”.

However, the Commission said: “The exchange of information is subject to strict conditions protecting business secrets and personal data. Information can be exchanged when both authorities investigate the same or a related conduct or transaction and the receiving authority can use the evidence only for the enforcement of its competition rules. In addition, no evidence can be used to impose sanctions on individuals.”

“The EU and Switzerland are two very important economic partners, whose economies are deeply integrated,” the Commission said. “As a result, many anti-competitive practices have cross border effects on trade between the EU and Switzerland.”

EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager said: “The possibility to exchange evidence gives competition authorities new strength. I am very pleased on behalf of consumers and companies alike and I believe this agreement will lead to more efficient competition law enforcement.”

To date, bilateral cooperation agreements have been concluded between the Commission and foreign competition authorities of the US, Canada, Japan and South Korea. The Commission said they are so-called ‘first generation’ agreements that “contain various instruments of cooperation in the area of competition policy but do not allow the competition authorities to exchange information and documents obtained in the course of their investigations, unless they have obtained express waivers from the source of the information”.

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