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Competition law, state aid and the EEA

Norway’s EEA membership resulted in pricing legislation being replaced by the current competition legislation. It also meant that the public sector would not automatically be able to subsidise or provide funding to companies or industries, as outlined in the state aid rules. Harris has participated in the development of legislation for more than 20 years, and is one of the few Norwegian law firms to have brought a competition lawsuit before the EFTA Court.

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Competition law is enforced by the Norwegian Competition Authority, which deals both with cases that are reported to them and with cases they choose to pursue, such as when illegal price fixing is suspected. In some cases, competition law is enforced by the companies themselves via applications to the courts. The more dramatic side of this legal field involves so-called “dawn raids”, where the Norwegian Competition Authority obtains evidence from company servers.

Harris’s team has assisted companies and industry organisations on a wide range of issues. We have worked on everything from the lawfulness of contractual clauses through standard agreements to collaboration agreements between large corporations, where we also looked at the issue of whether or not the rules for business concentrations would apply. We are experienced advisers on process and beyond.

As with competition law, the purpose of state aid rules is to prevent the distortion of competition. While competition rules apply to agreements and business concentrations between companies, state aid rules regulate aid provided by municipalities, the government and other public bodies that have the potential to distort competition. This covers far more than just money transfers. Examples include sales below market price, loan guarantees from the public sector when a company borrows money, and the public sector purchasing shares in a company. This area of the law also applies to politically sensitive schemes, and there are a number of exceptions that require an overview of the regulations.

Since the rules encompass business concentrations, Harris’s team also collaborates with colleagues working in company law.

Through our association with The Global Law Group (formerly The European Law Group), we also work on cases for foreign authorities and courts.

Our specialist attorneys in this field assist in the following types of cases, among others:

  • Acquisitions
  • Establishment of joint ventures, mergers and other business concentrations
  • Distribution agreements, including franchising and various cooperation agreements
  • Assessment of loyalty discounts
  • Refusal to supply
  • Assistance in identifying illegal cooperation
  • Consultancy on the EEA Agreement’s rules on state aid – for municipalities, other public bodies and companies