Short Reads

Court of Justice rules on the application of competition law to agricultural producer organisations

Court of Justice rules on the application of competition law to agricultural producer organisations

01.12.2017 EU law

On 14 November 2017, the European Court of Justice rendered its judgment on a request for a preliminary ruling from the French Supreme Court. The Court clarified the conditions under which competition rules must be applied to agricultural producer organisations (POs). POs are established to pursue the objectives of the common agricultural policy and may – if certain criteria are met – be exempted from the competition rules.

In March 2012, the French competition authority found that several undertakings, POs and other market organisations had implemented a cartel in the endive market. The cartel consisted of the fixing of minimum prices, coordination of the quantity of endives placed on the market and the exchange of strategic information. The undertakings and associations subsequently appealed the decision, arguing that the practices in question were necessary to pursue the objectives of the common agricultural policy and should therefore be excluded from the scope of the competition rules. The French Supreme Court asked preliminary questions to the Court of Justice on the issue.

According to the Court, the common agricultural policy takes precedence over the objectives in the field of competition. However, the common organisation of markets in agricultural products is not a competition-free zone. The Court therefore examined whether the practices of POs and associations of POs (APOs), such as those at issue, are excluded from the scope of the competition rules.

First of all, it is required that the practices of the POs and APOs are necessary to achieve the objectives of the common agricultural policy. According to the Court, this means that the practice is implemented by an entity that is recognized by the Member State as a PO or an APO and that is entitled to pursue the objectives of the common agricultural policy. Moreover, only coordination between producers that are members of the same recognized PO or APO can be justified.

Secondly, the practices must also be proportionate to the pursuit of the objectives assigned to the PO or APO. The Court ruled that the exchange of strategic information between producers is liable to be proportionate, as well as the concentration of supply to strengthen the position of producers vis-à-vis the greater concentration of demand. However, the Court concluded that the collective fixing of minimum sales may not be considered to be proportionate since it has the effect of reducing the already low level of competition in the markets for agricultural products.  

With its judgment, the Court clarified the conditions under which agreements on prices or quantity, or the exchange of information by members of such an organisation may escape the prohibition of Article 101 TFEU.

This article was published in the Competition Law Newsletter of December 2017. Other articles in this newsletter:

  1. Court of Justice dismisses appeal of British Airways in Air Cargo case
  2. National courts may declare that a practice infringes competition law after it was the subject of a commitment decision
  3. General Court partially annuls the Commission's ICAP decision (in the YIRD case)


Related news

16.03.2018 BE law
(Micro)plastics: EU-restrictie op komst?

Articles - Lees hier meer over de groeiende aandacht voor microplastics, die meer en meer in producten en levensmiddelen opduiken. De Europese instellingen hebben de microplastics in het vizier vanwege hun mogelijke impact op het marien milieu en de menselijke gezondheid. Ze denken na over beperkingen op microplastics. Volgen ook in België  bindende maatregelen?

Read more

01.03.2018 EU law
ACM publishes key priorities for 2018 and 2019

Short Reads - On 13 February 2018, the Dutch Authority for Consumers and Markets (ACM) highlighted the key priorities it will pursue in 2018 and 2019. It will focus on the digital economy, making the energy market greener, prices of prescription drugs and competition in the port sector. Interested parties were invited to share their comments on the priorities and multiple statements online.

Read more

14.03.2018 EU law
The Court of Justice of the European Union Rules that Intra-EU Investment Arbitration is Incompatible with EU Law: Reflections and Consequences for the Energy Charter Treaty

Articles - On the 6th of March 2018, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) held in a case between the Slovak Republic and Achmea (Case C-284/16, ECLI:EU:C:2018:158) that investment arbitration on the basis of the Netherlands-Slovakia Bilateral Investment Treaty (BIT) is incompatible with EU law, in particular Arts. 267 and 344 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). 

Read more

27.02.2018 BE law
Kleinhandelsbeleid getoetst aan Dienstenrichtlijn

Articles - Het Hof van Justitie heeft in een recent arrest de Dienstenrichtlijn van toepassing verklaard op "detailhandel". Dit arrest heeft belangrijke gevolgen voor het lokale kleinhandelsbeleid. Zo zal een gemeente of een provincie die de toegang tot of de uitoefening van een dienstenactiviteit beperkt, afdoende moeten motiveren waarom die belemmering verstaanbaar is met de Dienstenrichtlijn. Het bestuur moet dan ook waakzamer dan ooit zijn wil het een wettig kleinhandelsbeleid voeren. 

Read more

Our website uses cookies: third party analytics cookies to best adapt our website to your needs & cookies to enable social media functionalities. For more information on the use of cookies, please check our Privacy and Cookie Policy. Please note that you can change your cookie opt-ins at any time via your browser settings.

Privacy – en cookieverklaring