Collusion in Technical Development: A Perspective on EC’s Emission Cleaning Judgement


Bidyadhar Majhi
Sakshi Goel


In July 2021, the European Commission (EC) came out with a decision in a matter involving the issue of collusion in technical development with reference to emission cleaning for new diesel passenger cars. The said decision is the first of its kind, wherein the EC ruled that meeting of minds amongst competitors placed at a horizontal level with a view to limit technical development and competition on innovation in the area of emission cleaning technologies for passenger cars amounts to cartelisation, leading to the imposition of penalty on the five colluding parties. Taking clues from the above ruling of EC, this paper, by using doctrinal research methods, establishes a parallel between technology lock-in, network externalities, and collusion in technical development so far as their anti-competitive outcomes are concerned and provides that, in both technological lock-in and technical collusion, markets fail to produce efficient/competitive outcome. The paper supplements existing literature by advocating prompt regulatory intervention in both situations to correct market aberrations. Even though the ruling under reference relates to emission cleaning technologies for passenger cars, similar conduct may be present in other sectors. Accordingly, the paper suggests prompt regulatory action by competition authorities to ensure effective competition in the technology and innovation fields and for the benefit of society as a whole through the availability of innovative products at competitive prices and favourable impact on the environment.


How to Cite
Majhi, B. ., & Goel, S. (2023). Collusion in Technical Development: A Perspective on EC’s Emission Cleaning Judgement. Competition Commission of India Journal on Competition Law and Policy, 3, 55–78.


  1. Abreu, D. (1986). Extremal equilibria of oligopolistic supergames. Journal of Economic Theory, 39, 191–223.
  2. Arthur, B. W. (1989). Competing technologies, increasing returns and lock-in by historical events. The Economic Journal, 99, 116–131.
  3. Atallah, G. (2006) Economics of technological change (T. L. Beane, Ed.). Nova Science Publishers.
  4. Baumol, W. J. (1992). Horizontal collusion and innovation. The Economic Journal, 102(410), 129–137.
  5. Boyle, M. (n.d.). Tools for fundamental analysis: Market efficiency. Investopedia. Cellini, R., & and Lambertini, L. (2009). Dynamic R&D with spillovers: Competition vs cooperation. Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, 33(3).
  6. Competition Act, 2002.
  7. Competition Commission of India. (2021). Annual report 2020–21. Dobinson, I., & Johns, F. (2007). Qualitative Legal Research. In Research Methods for Law (pp. 18–19). Edinburgh University Press.
  8. European Commission. (n.d.). Agreement on the European Economic Area. agreemt_comp.pdf
  9. European Commission. (2021). Antitrust: Commission fines car manufacturers €875 million for restricting competition in emission cleaning for new diesel passenger cars.
  10. European Commission. (2021). Case At.40178 – Car emissions. AT_40178_8022289_3048_5.pdf
  11. European Commission. (2006a). Commission notice on immunity from fines and reduction of fines in cartel cases. Official Journal of European Union. 06XC1208%2804%29
  12. European Commission. (2006b). Guidelines on the method of setting fines imposed pursuant to Article 23(2)(a) of Regulation No 1/2003. Official Journal of European Union. 06XC0901%2801%29
  13. European Commission. (2021). Statement by Executive Vice President Vestager on the Commission decision to fine car manufacturers €875 million for restricting competition in emission cleaning for new diesel passenger cars. STATEMENT_21_3583
  14. Fletcher, A., Coyle, D., McAuley, D., Fruman, J., & Marsden, P. (n.d.). The Furman Report.
  15. Foxon, T. J. (2002). Technological and institutional ‘lock-in’ as a barrier to sustainable innovation. [CCEPT Working Paper].
  16. Haid, C., & Reuman, A. S. (2022). Green antitrust: The very thin red line between legitimate sustainability cooperation and illegal collusion.
  17. Hinloopen, J., & Smrkolj, G., & Wagener, F. (2017). Research and development cooperatives and market collusion: A global dynamic approach. Journal of Optimization Theory and Applications.
  18. Hutch, T., & Duncan, N. (2012). Defining and describing what we do: Doctrinal legal research. Deakin. L. Rev.84, 17(1).
  19. Hutchinson, T., & Duncan, N. (2012). Defining and describing what we do: Doctrinal legal research. Deakin. L. Rev, 17(1).
  20. Ihsan, C., & and Ismail, S. (2021). Collusion in supply functions under technology licensing. Managerial and Decision Economics, 43(5), 1362– 1378.
  21. Ilzkovitz, F., & and Dierx, A. (2015). Ex-post economic evaluation of competition policy enforcement: A review of the literature. European Commission. Jain, S. N. (2006). Doctrinal and non-doctrinal legal research. In S. K.
  22. Verma & M. Afzal Wani (Eds.), Legal research and methodology.
  23. Jorde, T. M., & Teece, D. J. (1989). Innovation, cooperation and antitrust. High Technology Law Journal, 4(1), 1–112.
  24. Jullien, B., & Sand-Zantman, W. (2016). Network effects. Industrial Economics Institute.
  25. Labaton, S. (2000). As the competition heats up so does the threat of collusion. The New York Times. tech/00/10/biztech/technology/25laba.html
  26. Labrecciosa, P., & and Colombo, L. (2010). Technology uncertainty and market collusion. The B. E. Journal of Economic Analysis & Policy.
  27. Maneni, S. R. (2006). Legal research methodology. Allahabad Law Agency.
  28. MCRHRDI. (n.d.). Market failure and government intervention. http://www. pdf
  29. Mehta, P., & Kumar, S. (2000). Trade, competition and multilateral competition policy—A South Asian perspective. South Asia Journal, 1(2). Motta, M., & Peitz, M. (2020). Removal of potential competitors – A blind spot of merger policy. Competition Law and Policy Debate, 6(2).
  30. NSW Government. (2017). A guide to categorising market failures for government policy development and evaluation. New South Wales Department of Industry.
  31. OECD. (2016). Competition-and-sanctions-in-antitrust-cases. https://www.
  32. OECD. (2012). Innovation for development. inno/50586251.pdf
  33. OECD. (n.d.). Market failure. In Glossary of statistical terms. https://stats.
  34. OECD. (2020). Start-ups, killer acquisition and merger control. https://www. htm
  35. Perkins, R. (2003). Technological “lock-in”. International Society for Ecological Economics.
  36. Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers. (n.d.). Technical regulations.
  37. Spulber, D. F. (2008). Unlocking technology: Antitrust and innovation. Journal of Competition Law & Economics, 4(4), 915–966.
  38. The Hindu (2021). Amid lockdown, India switches to BS-VI emission norms. to-bs-vi-emission-norms/article31231973.ece
  39. The Indian Express (2021). Byju’s list of acquisitions: Great Learning, Epic, Aakash Educational Services, WhiteHat Jr and more. https:// great-learning-epic-aakash-educational-services-toppr-whitehat- jr-and-more-7424898/ UNCTAD. (2010). Model law on competition.
  40. Wen, T. S. (2021). Collusion to limit or control technological development may be anti-competitive.
  41. William, B. J. (1992). Horizontal collusion and innovation. The Economic Journal, 129–137.
  42. Zhao, K. (2015). Product competition and R&D investment under spillovers within full or partial collusion games. Lat Am Econ Rev, 24(4).
  43. Zhao, L., Sun, J., Zhang, L., He, P., & Yi, Q. (2021). Effects of technology lock-in on enterprise innovation performance. European Journal of Innovation Management, 24(5), 1782–1805. EJIM-06-2020-0206