The general guidelines contain general guidance on the concept of effective restriction of competition. These guidelines provide additional guidelines for assessing competition in horizontal cooperation agreements. Production agreements can result in direct restrictions on competition between the parties. Production agreements, particularly production joint ventures, may encourage parties to directly align the level of production and quality, the price at which the joint venture sells its products or other competitive parameters. This can also limit competition if the parties market the products independently. Pricing is one of the main competition issues arising from marketing agreements between competitors. Agreements that are limited to joint selling are generally intended to coordinate the pricing policies of competing producers or suppliers. These agreements can not only eliminate tariff competition between the parties for alternative products, but also limit the total volume of products to be delivered by the parties under a contracting system. Such agreements should therefore limit the competition for which the purpose is sought. In the area of horizontal cooperation agreements, there are category exemption regulations based on Article 101, paragraph 3, for research and development (38) and specialisation agreements (including joint production) (39). These category exemption regulations are based on the fact that the combination of complementary capabilities or assets can be the source of significant efficiencies in research and development and specialization agreements. The same may be true for other types of horizontal cooperation agreements.
The analysis of the efficiency gains of an individual agreement under Article 101, paragraph 3, therefore, is largely to determine the capabilities and complementary assets that each of the parties bring to the agreement and to determine whether the resulting efficiency gains are in such a way that the conditions set out in Article 101, paragraph 3, are met. Marketing agreements can lead to significant efficiencies. The efficiency gains to be considered in assessing compliance with a marketing agreement with the criteria under Article 101, paragraph 3, depend on the nature of the activity and the parties to the takeover. As a general rule, pricing cannot be justified unless it is essential for the integration of other marketing functions and this integration will result in considerable efficiency gains.