Ongoing evaluation of the Vertical Block Exemption Regulation (VBER)
The VBER and its guidelines guarantee legal certainty, which is necessary for commercial agents and principals in order to cooperate. If commercial agency agreements are not expressly excluded from Article 101(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, the distribution channel via commercial agents would risk to disappear to the disadvantage of many SME principals as well as consumers. The current VBER will expire on 31 May 2022.
The Commission started at the end of 2018 an evaluation process in order to determine what had worked well and what needed to be changed. In spring 2019, a public consultation took place where IUCAB and 12 IUCAB member associations participated. In total, the Commission received 164 contributions. In addition, 13 position papers were forwarded to the Commission.
IUCAB and CDH at stakeholder meeting
On 14 and 15 November 2019, a VBER workshop was organised in Brussels. The workshop was a follow-up to the stakeholder consultation in the spring. There were more than 180 participants from different stakeholders. A very high number of representatives from industry, brands, franchising and online platforms participated. IUCAB and the German member association CDH participated and underlined the importance for the profession.
IUCAB presented its arguments
Commercial agents are usually bound by the instructions of the principals in terms of prices and conditions such as limitations on the territory or on the customers. These instructions are part of the Commercial agency agreements. Otherwise the commercial agent contract is not working. In addition, the Commission approved during the REFIT review some years ago that the distribution channel through commercial agents is of particular importance for the internal European market.
The workshop summary together with the results of a current research will be taken into strong consideration for the final evaluation phase. The final Commission Proposal is expected for the beginning of 2021.
So far, IUCAB made all possible steps in order to prolong the VBER and its guidelines and to maintain the exemption for commercial agency agreements, which is a matter of survival for approx. 600,000 commercial agents and agencies.