Letter from the editor

Dear reader,  Since launching Agenda as a monthly publication in 2005, it has been our ambition to provide you with engaging and relevant insights underpinned by economics as it applies to business, markets, law and regulation.

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Blinded by the sun: the future of renewables disputes

The deployment of renewable energy technologies looks set to continue to grow. However, it can be challenging to integrate these technologies into existing policy frameworks and energy systems. Renewables have also been prone to legal disputes, as illustrated by recent cases brought against the Spanish government. As such disputes become more commonplace, a range of economic, financial and public policy issues will need to be examined

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New kid (needed) on the block? Vertical Block Exemption Regulation in the digital age

The recent rise of ecommerce has triggered debate around vertical agreements between suppliers and distributors/retailers. Against this backdrop, is the European Commission’s current Vertical Block Exemption Regulation (VBER) still fit for purpose, or should it be revised? Do its Guidelines on Vertical Restraints (VGL) also need to change? Drawing on Oxera’s response to the Commission’s 2019 consultation, we discuss a few areas where revision and further guidance might be welcome

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Water sector draft determinations: a stocktake

Ofwat’s July 2019 draft determinations for water companies in England and Wales signal that the regulator is toughening its stance on allowed returns, cost efficiency and performance incentives. Credit rating agencies have provided their own thoughts on what this means for the sector. We go under the bonnet to explore the detail

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State of play: what’s going to happen with UK freight after Brexit?

The Prime Minister of the UK, Boris Johnson, has pledged to deliver Brexit on 31 October 2019, without further delays, whether or not a deal is in place. Retailers and manufacturers are preparing their supply chains, with companies and organisations reviewing their distribution networks and, in many cases, stockpiling inputs. On 18 August, a UK government report on the detailed preparations and scenario modelling undertaken by HM Treasury was leaked to The Sunday Times. In this article, we review some likely sources of friction and delay and quantify the potential impact on supply chains.

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Sharing is caring: supporting the roll-out of 5G networks

Early 5G services are being launched in major towns and cities around the world, providing enhanced mobile broadband services to users. However, further investment in new network infrastructure will be required to support widespread deployment of 5G and take full advantage of the technology’s transformational capabilities. Given the significant costs involved, network sharing agreements may be increasingly important. Will this greater industry collaboration have an impact on head-to-head competition? If so, how should this tension be assessed?

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The benefits of sharing, or sharing the benefits? Cartels and efficiencies in Hong Kong

Is a market-sharing agreement always an infringement of competition law, or could it be justified on the basis that it generates efficiencies? What analysis and evidence is required to answer this question? These were the questions facing the Hong Kong Competition Tribunal in only the second enforcement action brought before it. We look at the economic analysis that was instrumental in helping the Tribunal to decide the case

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How do non-poaching agreements distort competition?

Agreements between firms not to hire each other’s workers have recently come under the radar of competition authorities, particularly in the USA. However, there is a question about whether labour markets come within the remit of competition authorities, and whether it is their role to intervene. If it is, how can tools developed in competition economics help in such cases?

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Will tech giants take over payments?

The Chinese payments industry has recently experienced significant disruptions from technology companies Alipay and WeChat. Although consumer preferences and the regulatory environment have played an important part in the success of Alipay and WeChat Pay in China, many factors are also applicable in the European context. With technology companies now evaluating opportunities in the European payments market (most recently, Facebook’s Libra), what can the Chinese example tell us about its likely evolution?

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Lifting the weight of state aid from project finance

In the EU, support provided by the state to finance projects operating in competitive markets typically needs to comply with state aid rules. However, there may be challenges in structuring project financing from the state in a way that is compliant with these rules. What are the fundamental elements to consider when assessing whether the funding confers an economic advantage on the recipient? What alternative financing structures could be considered?

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A flood of interest: Flood Re makes its mark

Flood Re, a pioneering flood insurance levy scheme in the UK, is celebrating its third birthday. Since its launch in April 2016, the scheme has helped over 200,000 households, and is now increasingly looking at how it can help the market to transition to ensure that Flood Re is no longer needed by 2039. Aidan Kerr, Director of Operations at Flood Re, explains the scheme’s history and underlying social purpose

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