International Business Law for California Businesses (& Vice Versa)

Our guide to international opportunities for California businesses, as well as international firms doing business in California.

In today’s interconnected world, California companies are increasingly venturing into the international arena — taking advantage of the state’s innovative technology sectors and prime location along the Pacific Rim to tap into overseas markets. 

These ventures can often pave the way for significant growth and expansion. However, they also bring a set of legal challenges that businesses need to address to stay compliant and safeguard their interests. This guide aims to highlight some of the critical legal aspects and considerations for California businesses embarking on international transactions.

EU Competition Law

European Union (EU) competition law is designed to maintain fair competition within the single market, ensuring that businesses operate on a level playing field and consumers benefit from a wide choice of goods and services at competitive prices.

The foundational principles of EU competition law are enshrined in Articles 101, 102, and 107 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). 

Prohibition of Anti-Competitive Agreements (Article 101 TFEU)

Article 101 TFEU prohibits agreements between two or more independent market operators which may affect trade between EU member states, and which have as their object or effect the prevention, restriction, or distortion of competition within the internal market. 

This includes both horizontal agreements (between competitors) and vertical agreements (between companies at different levels of the supply chain). 

Examples include price fixing, market sharing, and limiting production. However, certain agreements that contribute to improving the production or distribution of goods or promote technical or economic progress may be exempt from this prohibition under specific conditions.

Abuse of Dominant Position (Article 102 TFEU)

Article 102 TFEU prohibits companies that hold a dominant position in a market from abusing that position to the detriment of competition and consumers. A dominant position is not illegal per se; rather, it is the abuse of this position that EU law seeks to prevent. 

Examples of abusive practices include predatory pricing, refusal to supply, and exclusive dealing arrangements. The determination of a “dominant position” involves assessing the company’s market share, the competitiveness of the market, and the company’s ability to act independently of its competitors and customers.

Enforcement of EU Competition Law

The European Commission is the primary body responsible for enforcing EU competition law, with the power to investigate suspected violations, impose fines, and order companies to cease anti-competitive practices. 

Companies found in breach of EU competition law may face substantial fines, up to 10% of their annual worldwide turnover. National competition authorities and courts of the EU member states also play a role in enforcing EU competition rules within their jurisdictions.

Privacy Regulations (GDPR)

Each country comes with its unique legal and regulatory landscape, which can be markedly different from U.S. norms. California businesses must ensure they comply with local laws concerning labor, the environment, consumer protection, and data privacy. 

For example, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) poses significant compliance challenges for companies dealing with EU citizens’ data, regardless of the company’s location.

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), enacted by the European Union on May 25, 2018, represents a comprehensive data protection law designed to enhance individuals’ control and rights over their personal data. It applies to all companies and organizations operating within the EU, as well as those outside the EU that offer goods or services to, or monitor the behavior of, EU data subjects. 

Under the GDPR (Regulation (EU) 2016/679), personal data must be processed lawfully, fairly, and in a transparent manner, ensuring adequate security. It introduces stricter consent requirements, a right to access personal data, a right to be forgotten, and the requirement for data breach notifications.

The regulation mandates that data controllers and processors implement appropriate technical and organizational measures to ensure and be able to demonstrate that processing is performed in accordance with the GDPR. Non-compliance can result in significant fines, up to 4% of the annual global turnover (gross revenue) of the preceding financial year or €20 million (whichever is greater), highlighting the importance of adherence to the regulation.

Risk Mitigation through Due Diligence & Legal Expertise

Conducting thorough due diligence is crucial in cross-border transactions to spot and mitigate potential legal, financial, and operational risks. This involves comprehensive checks on the legal status of foreign partners, the regulatory climate of the target market, and possible liabilities. When operating internationally, a California company is availing themselves of the EU legal and economic system and thus must comply with EU law while conducting business in the EU. 

While a California business can draft agreements under California law, they still must obey EU economic regulations while doing business in the EU. 

Similarly, European businesses doing business in California should be mindful of the U.S. legal system and its differences from the EU legal system and more relaxed regulation of competition laws and higher costs and time-consumption of litigation in the California court system. 

Therefore, when engaging in international business, a prudent manager should consider more efficient dispute resolution procedures such as mediation as a prerequisite to litigation, recovery of reasonable attorney’s fees and costs by contract and arbitration clauses that fast track litigation and reduce costly overhead of the United States District Courts and California state courts.

Wrapping Up

Venturing into international markets offers California businesses exciting growth prospects, but also introduces a series of legal challenges. By understanding international trade laws, deciphering foreign investment regulations, addressing tax issues, protecting intellectual property, ensuring compliance with local laws, and performing thorough due diligence, businesses can reduce risks and make the most of global opportunities.

This guide offers a starting point, but it’s advisable to seek specialized legal counsel to meet the particular needs and hurdles of your business’s international endeavors.

Always keep abreast of the latest legal requirements and consider consulting with the lawyers at Gallagher Krich APC, experienced California business lawyers, to address any company-specific concerns. 

For more information, contact Gallagher Krich, APC at Telephone: (858) 926-5797 or by email at: info [at]

Attorney-Advertising. Tom Gallagher is the attorney responsible for this advertising.

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