Articles

General Court dismissed action by Uralita in the Sodium Chlorate cartel

General Court dismissed action by Uralita in the Sodium Chlorate cartel

General Court dismissed action by Uralita in the Sodium Chlorate cartel

03.11.2015 NL law

On 6 October 2015, the General Court ("GC") dismissed an application brought by Corporación Empresarial de Materiales de Construcción (formerly known as "Uralita") for annulment of a Commission Decision in the Sodium Chlorate cartel. The GC rejected Uralita's claim that the Commission did not adhere to the applicable time-limits. More specifically, the GC found that the Commission's decision to grant conditional immunity to an undertaking constitutes an act that will interrupt the five-year limitation period in Article 25(1) Regulation 1/2003 for all cartel participants.

On 11 June 2008, the Commission adopted a decision against Uralita and its (former) wholly-owned subsidiary ("Aragonesas") for an infringement in the sodium chlorate sector between 1996 and 2000. Aragonesas and Uralita independently challenged the Commission Decision before the GC. On 25 October 2011, the GC partially granted Aragonesas' action, reducing the infringement period, limiting it to 28 January 1998 - 31 December 1998 and adjusting the fine accordingly. Uralita's action for annulment, however, was dismissed in its entirety. 

On 27 March 2012, acting on its own initiative, the Commission adopted an amending decision in order to bring the infringement period and the fine attributed to Uralita as the parent company of Aragonesas in line with the judgment in Aragonesas. Subsequently, Uralita challenged the amending decision before the GC, claiming that the Commission was time-barred from imposing a new fine in the amending decision. According to Uralita, the Commission relied on  a request for information in 2004 as the first action that interrupted the applicable five-year limitation period in the 2008 decision. In light of the shorter infringement period imputed to it now, the five-year limitation period would have started to run in 1998 and ended in 2003 (i.e. before the first interruption action took place).

The GC dismissed Uralita's argument. It ruled that the amending decision did not impose a new fine but had "the purpose and effect of maintaining in part the fine initially imposed on the applicant in the 2008 decision". As a result, account should be taken of the date of the initial decision and not the date of the amending decision in assessing the alleged violation of the time-limits. The GC concluded that the five-year limitation period did not prevent the Commission from imposing a fine on Uralita in this case. The applicable limitation period had been interrupted when the Commission granted conditional immunity to another undertaking in 2003. This action interrupted the limitation periods for all participants in the cartel.

This article was published in the Competition Law Newsletter of November 2015. Other articles in this newsletter:

Back to top

Team

Related news

02.07.2020 NL law
European Commission to pull the strings of foreign subsidies

Short Reads - The European Commission is adding powers to its toolbox to ensure a level playing field between European and foreign(-backed) companies active on the EU market. On top of merger control and Foreign Direct Investment screening obligations, companies may also need to account for future rules allowing scrutiny of subsidies granted by non-EU governments if those subsidies might distort the EU Single Market.

Read more

04.06.2020 NL law
Please share – ACM conditionally clears shared mobility platform merger

Short Reads - There may soon be a new competition tool available to tackle structural competition concerns in dynamic tech and platform markets. Until then, competition authorities resort to existing tools to deal with these markets. The Dutch competition authority (ACM) recently subjected the merger of two emerging platforms – without significant market footprint – to behavioural remedies. On 20 May 2020, the ACM cleared the merger between the travel apps of Dutch rail operator NS and transport company Pon.

Read more

04.06.2020 NL law
No proof of competitive disadvantage? No abusive favouritism

Short Reads - Companies claiming abuse of dominance in civil proceedings have their work cut out for them, as demonstrated by a ruling of the Amsterdam Court of Appeal. Real estate association VBO had accused dominant online platform Funda of favouritism. However, in line with the District Court’s earlier ruling, the Appeal Court dismissed the claim for insufficient evidence of negative effects on competition. The ruling confirms that the effect-based approach also applies in civil abuse claims, and that the standard of proof is high.    

Read more

02.07.2020 NL law
New competition tool: something old, something new, something borrowed

Short Reads - Large online platforms may face more regulatory obligations, whilst non-dominant companies’ unilateral conduct may soon be curbed. The European Commission intends to tool up its kit by adding a new regulation to keep digital gatekeepers in check, as well as providing more clarity on how to define digital markets in its new Market Definition Notice.

Read more

04.06.2020 NL law
Not so fast – General Court clarifies merger control test

Short Reads - There is no magical number when it comes to “4-to-3” telecom mergers. On 28 May 2020, the EU’s General Court (“Court”) handed down a landmark judgment annulling a 2016 decision of the European Commission (“Commission”) blocking the merger between O2 UK and Three. The judgment fine-tunes the Commission’s application of the “significant impediment to effective competition” test for horizontal mergers and raises the bar for proving the removal of an “important competitive force” as a result of the merger.  

Read more