The prohibition of cartels and related horizontal agreements is one of the few undisputed provisions of competition law and is regarded as the basis of economic principles considered to be the basis of competition policy. However, the examination is proving difficult to express generally accepted views on the conception of the law of the agreement, in contradiction with key aspects of legal doctrine and practice and unrelated to essential elements of the modern theory of the oligopoly. This article examines these and other elements of the obligation to agree and suggests the need for a comprehensive review of how competition law should address the problem of oligopoly. Horizontal agreements (i.e. agreements between undertakings operating at the same level of production or negotiation) may affect competition and are subject to EU competition rules, in particular Article 101 TFEU. In 2011, the European Commission adopted guidelines for the evaluation of agreements related to cooperation between competitors. These guidelines complement the block exemption regulations for research and development (R&D) agreements and specialisation agreements. Severe forms of restrictions of competition (so-called basic restrictions) such as price cartels, production restrictions, market shares or customer groups are prohibited, regardless of the parties` position in the market. Agreement between potential competitors, real or by definition, i.e.: undertakings which operate at the same level of the production or distribution chain and which include, for example, research and development, production, purchasing or marketing. Horizontal agreements may restrict competition, in particular where they involve price fixing or market sharing, or where the definition of market power resulting from horizontal cooperation has negative repercussions on the market in terms of price, production, innovation or product diversity and quality. On the other hand, horizontal cooperation can be a way to share risks, reduce costs, pool know-how and bring innovation to market faster.

For small and medium-sized enterprises in particular, cooperation can be an important means of adapting to market developments. Depending on the circumstances, horizontal agreements for the exchange of competitively sensitive information may be considered as horizontal anti-competitive agreements and fall within the reprecities of Article 4 of the Competition Law. Whether an agreement is legally binding is irrelevant to the extent of the assessment of competition law; EE&MC has exceptional expertise to carry out such analyses and to achieve the right market definition….