While recognising the benefits of horizontal cooperation agreements, the Commission must ensure that effective competition is maintained. Article 101 provides the legal framework for a balanced assessment that takes into account both the negative effects on competition and the beneficial effects on competition. Analysis: Although fat levels are recommendations and are therefore voluntary, the recommended fat levels are likely to be implemented by all producers of processed food in the Member State, given the wide publicity resulting from the national advertising campaign. It is therefore likely that it will become a de facto maximum fat content in processed foods. Consumer choice in product markets could therefore be limited. These restrictive effects may occur when two or more of the few companies involved in the development of such a new product collaborate at a stage where they are rather close to placing the product on the market, independently of each other. These effects are typically the direct result of the agreement between the parties. Innovation can even be limited by a purely R&D agreement. Agreements using standard terms as part of a broader restrictive agreement to exclude actual or potential competitors also limit competition. An example would be that a professional organisation does not allow a new entrant to access its standard conditions, the use of which is essential for market entry. Horizontal cooperation agreements can bring significant economic benefits, in particular when they combine complementary activities, capacities or assets. Horizontal cooperation can be a means of sharing risks, reducing costs, increasing investment, pooling know-how, improving product quality and diversity and bringing innovation to market faster.
These guidelines replace the Commission guidelines on the applicability of Article 81 of the Treaty to horizontal cooperation agreements (14) published by the Commission in 2001 and which do not apply in so far as sectoral rules apply, as is the case for certain agreements in the fields of agriculture (15), transport (16) or insurance (17). . . .