Merger control refers to the procedure of reviewing mergers and acquisitions under antitrust / competition law. Over 130 nations worldwide have adopted a regime providing for merger control. National or supernational competition agencies such as the EU European Commission or the US Federal Trade Commission are normally entrusted with the role of reviewing mergers.
|Enforcement authorities and organizations|
Merger control regimes are adopted to prevent anti-competitive consequences of concentrations (as mergers and acquisitions are also known). Accordingly, most merger control regimes normally provide for one of the following substantive tests:
- Does the concentration significantly impede effective competition? (EU, Germany)
- Does the concentration substantially lessen competition? (US, UK)
- Does the concentration lead to the creation or strengthening of a dominant position? (Switzerland, Russia)
In practice most merger control regimes are based on very similar underlying principles. In simple terms, the creation of a dominant position would usually result in a substantial lessening of or significant impediment to effective competition.
The large majority of modern merger control regimes are of an ex-ante nature, i.e. the reviewing authorities carry out their assessment before the transaction is implemented.
While it is indisputable that a concentration may lead to a reduction in output and result in higher prices and thus in a welfare loss to consumers, the antitrust authority faces the challenge of applying various economic theories and rules in a legally binding procedure.