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(Last updated 20 May 2020)

As governments around the world mobilised public health and safety initiatives in response to Covid-19, competition authorities have implemented measures to protect staff, balance existing resources, and respond to new challenges. As authorities are adapting to the “new normal,” they are working to return to traditional timelines and processes. The potential for delay  nevertheless remains in many jurisdictions as authorities refine their new procedures and work through backlogs.

Most authorities have now announced measures to protect the health and welfare of their staff (e.g. mandating remote working and prohibiting face-to-face meetings). Competition authorities are developing flexibility to try to limit disruption to the efficient merger review processes companies rely on, from videoconferencing to new electronic filing systems and we see great effort by many authorities to ensure business continuity to the extent possible. So far, responses have been very effective in the earliest areas most affected, such as China. Most delays were initially modest and primarily experienced in the initial transition period of the response to Covid-19.

As jurisdictions around the world are facing unprecedented new strains, however, more significant delays are possible and developments will need to be monitored closely. Some regulators, including those in the EU and the US, are asking parties for flexibility and warning of expected slowdowns in the merger review process. The EU has indicated that there will be delays in the prenotification process as it prioritises transactions that have been formally filed, and has stopped the clock in several cases pending information requests. This said, on several cases, we see the Commission rejigging case teams in an attempt to ensure business continuity and proceed with the review of pending cases (including transactions which are still in pre-notification). The US authorities have indicated that they expect to revise existing timing agreements for complex transactions.

Several jurisdictions have implemented novel steps to suspend or extend statutory review periods. Relevant authorities in several jurisdictions (including in Italy, Austria, and India) have taken administrative steps to suspend review timelines or limit new filings for several weeks. Legislators in other jurisdictions including the United States and Germany are considering measures to extend statutory review timelines for all transactions. While some jurisdictions like India have now reinstated merger reviews with remote working procedures in place, further extensions and significant backlogs are likely in the most impacted jurisdictions.

The strain on competition authorities and delays in the process may stem from several areas beyond the direct impact on employees and the transition to remote procedures. Competition authorities need to balance limited resources to address other priorities, such as expedited reviews of state aid, competitor collaborations, and price gouging. Disruptions in smaller jurisdictions that are heavily impacted and already capacity constrained are likely to be particularly pronounced. Staff may also face delays in the investigation process, as the parties to the transaction and other interested stakeholders face challenges in responding to requests.

Our interactive map provides a summary of how responses to Covid-19 are impacting global merger control reviews in key jurisdictions around the world. Developments in this area are moving fast and while we will endeavour to keep this map as up to date as possible, agencies are rapidly issuing or updating their guidance on this issue. Jurisdictions updated since 18 March 2020 include the Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Colombia, France, Germany, India, Italy, Korea, Mexico, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Spain, UK and USA.

Stay tuned for further updates.

How are authorities responding?
  • Launching new electronic filing systems
  • Expanding remote working
  • Relying on flexibility in prenotification and information gathering
  • Suspending or extending review timelines
  • Reallocating resources to special task forces
What should companies do?
  • Keep informed of developments
  • Plan ahead and prepare materials needed
  • Review transaction agreements carefully
  • Stay flexible to meet new challenges
  • Budget for delays including as a result of limitations authorities face internally but also in getting market feedback

Covid-19 and Merger Control: Explore by jurisdiction

Our lawyers have summarised how responses to Covid-19 are impacting global merger control reviews in key jurisdictions around the world.

 

Explore the key updates in your jurisdiction by selecting a map pin. Unselect the map pin to return to the summary.