A Resolution issued by Conselho Administrativo de Defesa Econômica (CADE), dated March 11, 2015, made a comeback of the procedure for antitrust guidance to be requested to CADE. This request for guidance can be used in all competition cases, including cartels.
The first article of such Resolution says that any interested party can forward a request for guidance to CADE, related to specific situations, which may be real or potential. Interested parties can also be trade associations which have, as their goals, representation of the involved sector and can demonstrate that at least one of the represented companies is legitimately interested in such guidance.
There are some requirements for such request for guidance and, although it is pointless, for the purpose of this note, to go through all of them, it is interesting to mention that the party must declare all CADE´s precedents related to the object. So, no request for guidance can be asked before a thorough research through CADE´s jurisprudence. However, any research may have its problems and it is not clear what will happen if a certain research does not present a decision that CADE may understand as fundamental.
Another point that must be reported says that the request for guidance cannot refer to a purely hypothetical issue. This may be a somewhat tricky question because CADE may understand that a question that is not under practice is hypothetical (which, in a way, it may be). It is not clear what can happen if, e.g., a party asks whether it is legitimate to have certain contacts with competitors and, if the conduct is approved by CADE and the party does not perform it due to a further strategic and/or commercial decision, could the party can be punished for having submitted a request for guidance that CADE may consider hypothetical?.
The answer to the request for guidance is binding for CADE and the parties for five years, although the Resolution states that CADE can reconsider its decision, if based on new facts. So, in practice, the Resolution is really binding only for the parties submitting the request for guidance.
A last problematic article states that, if CADE understands that an already existing conduct, which is the object of the request for guidance, has the possibility of being illegal, an administrative file will be opened in order to prosecute the interested party. If the conduct is a possible cartel, a criminal file may also be opened. So, it is fundamental that, in case a party wants to make such request related to a conduct that is under way, it is advisable to stop such conduct before requesting the guidance.
Consequently, a request for guidance, in order to be in the safe side, must be related to conducts that are not being performed but are to be performed and depend on the guidance, with the additional task of demonstrating to the authorities that the request for guidance is not hypothetical.