Hola everyone! Last year I heard Frédéric Jenny say, at the Latin American and Caribbean Competition Forum, that we lived in interesting times due to the emergence of new antitrust challenges associated with the rise of platform economies. Little did we knew that we would experience even more interesting times due to the emergence of a virus!
It’s difficult to track how competition authorities around the globe have reacted to the COVID-19’s challenge. There’s a new announcement almost every day! Probably you have heard from the European Commission, the European Competition Network, as well as the FTC and DOJ. But what about the 31 competition authorities of Latin America and the Caribbean? My colleagues of the Competition Centre (based at the Universidad Adolfo Ibañez) published a brief analysis of the reactions of competition authorities, including several Latin American agencies. At least in eight countries of the region, the agencies partially or totally suspended their investigations (Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Honduras, Mexico, Perú).
Furthermore, Brazil’s CADE opened a formal investigation due to alleged excessive pricing of face masks, hand sanitizers and alcohol. Meanwhile, the government of Colombia announced that the competition authority will monitor a list of goods (e.g. basic needs and health related) to prevent excessive pricing. Other governments have implemented more stringent interventions, including price controls that are monitored by the competition authority, such as the case of El Salvador.
Finally, some authorities have informed the temporary easing of competition law enforcement. Mexico’s COFECE, for example, stated that the agency will not pursue horizontal agreements whose purpose is to increase supply, avoid shortages, and ensure the supply of goods and services associated with the coronavirus contingency. Furthermore, the Mexican agency pledged to undertake an expedited review of the mergers that are associated with COVID-19.
We are certainly living interesting times, perhaps not happy times… Nonetheless, let’s stay tuned with our passions and study “pandemic antitrust” from home office.
Juan David Gutiérrez Rodriguez, PhD, is a Partner at Avante Abogados, Colombia. He heads the Latin America Chapter of Ascola, the Academic Society for Competition Law. Twitter: @JuanDGut