Revisiting the Concept of Undertaking from a Public Procurement Law Perspective – A Discussion on EasyPay and Finance Engineering
13 Pages Posted: 27 Nov 2015
Date Written: November 26, 2015
In EasyPay and Finance Engineering (C-185/14), the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has revisited the concept of undertaking for the purposes of the application of EU competition law. It has clarified the test applicable to economic agents engaging in ‘mixed’ economic and non-economic activities. The EasyPay test determines that, in order not to be qualified as “economic” because of its links with another activity that fulfils an exclusively social function based on the principle of solidarity and entirely non-profit making, an activity must, by its nature, its aims and the rules to which it is subject, be inseparably connected to it. In the paper, we discuss how the CJEU has arguably given a stricter interpretation and adopted a less lenient approach to the severability or separation of activities than in previous cases like FENIN, Selex or Compass-Datenbank. In our view, this interpretation is anchored on a functional analysis of the concept of undertaking, and it is a welcome development that will have far reaching implications.
Beyond that general discussion, the paper focuses on the potential implications of the EasyPay test in the area of public procurement and, in particular, for the activities of central purchasing bodies. We submit that EasyPay facilitates a revision of the current position regarding the direct applicability of EU competition law to entities carrying out public procurement activities and, in particular, central purchasing bodies. We also submit that this is highly desirable because it grants legal certainty to economic operators when dealing with a central purchasing body, to the effect that the purchasing activities will be under competition law and the derived constrains on the market behaviour of large public buyers that may abuse of their buyer power.
Keywords: public procurement, competition, undertaking, central purchasing bodies, economic activity, EasyPay, FENIN, Selex, Compass-Datenbank
JEL Classification: H57, K21, K23, K42
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation