Multiple Meanings of “undertaking”

Legal Terms with Multiple Meanings

undertaking; to undertake

In the language of contracts “undertaking” denotes a “promise” or “pledge,” and is most often expressed in Spanish as compromiso. In its verb form, “to undertake (to do something)” is comprometerse (a hacer algo). Thus, for example, in an employment contract there may be a “confidentiality undertaking” (compromiso [or] acuerdo de confidencialidad) in which “Employee undertakes not to disclose Employer’s confidential information” (el Empleado se compromete a no divulgar la información confidencial del Empleador).

But in the language of EU competition law “undertaking” has a very different meaning, being a generic term for “business entity” that encompasses all types of enterprises without reference to any specific corporate form. In this context “undertaking” refers to any entity engaged in economic activity that offers goods or services in a given market, regardless of its legal status. In Spanish this generic term “undertaking” is rendered simply as empresa. Thus the EU competition rules set forth in Article 101 (3) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (Tratado de Funcionamiento de la Unión Europea) prohibit activities in restraint of trade including “all agreements between undertakings, decisions by associations of undertakings and concerted practices.” In the Spanish version of the Treaty this is expressed as todos los acuerdos entre empresas, las decisiones de asociaciones de empresas y las practicas concertadas.”

And, ¡ojo! Although in this context “undertaking” is empresa, in modern usage “undertaker” cannot be rendered as empresario, as the term has sometimes been mistranslated. Indeed, since the late 1600s (according to the Online Etymology Dictionary), the term “undertaker” denotes “a person whose profession is the preparation of the dead for burial or cremation and the management of funerals; funeral director” (Collins English Dictionary). Thus, “undertaker” may be more properly described as director de servicios funerarios (or with a similar expression) and is definitely not a generic term for empresario.

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