A more economic and less formalistic approach to the assessment of vertical restraints under article 81 of the EC Treaty is one of the most important aims of the reform which recently led the EC Commission to adopt the new block exemption regulation no. 2790/99. Two different objectives are relevant in the enforcement of article 81: the protection of competition and the promotion of economic integration between Member States. The author argues that, with respect to the protection of competition objective, the main provisions of the new block exemption regulation are consistent with the indications of economic theory and provide an efficient use of legal presuptions. With respect to the objective of market integration, some further progress is still needed in order to exclude form the prohibition of article 81 those vertical agreements which, while involving some territorial protection, due to the absence of market power do not have a negative impact on trade.