The OFT has today (27 April), for the first time, given advice to two businesses on the competition law implications of a proposed collaboration agreement. Two grocery wholesalers, Makro Self-Service and Palmer & Harvey, received advice on a joint purchasing agreement which the OFT felt would secure better prices from common suppliers and would be unlikely to restrict competition in the market. The OFT did have a concern with certain exchanges of information between the parties, but the arrangements were altered to ensure that the data supplied was general and aggregated. A non-confidential version of the OFT's opinion will be published shortly.
This is a potentially very interesting development because, with the demise of the notification process for agreements, companies have had to depend on their own assessment, in the light of whatever guidance has been issued by the competition authorities. This is the first example of the OFT giving an opinion and it will be interesting to see if this process becomes more popular in the future.