Short Reads

Brussels Court of Appeal rules that cement producers do not breach competition law

Brussels Court of Appeal rules that cement producers do not breach co

Brussels Court of Appeal rules that cement producers do not breach competition law

02.08.2016 NL law

On 30 August 2013, the Belgian Competition Authorities imposed fines for approximately EUR 14.5 million in total on cement producers CBR, CCB and Holcim, as well as smaller fines of EUR 100,000 each on the trade association for Belgian cement producers (FEBELCEM) and the national centre for research for the cement industry (CRIC).

The competition authority found that the entities concerned had engaged in a concerted practice with a view to delaying the adoption of a number of regulatory instruments permitting the use of LMA (laitier moulu agrée) as a substitute for CEM III cement in the production of ready-mix concrete. In particular, it found that this concerted practice was intended to prevent the Dutch LMA producer Orcem entering the Belgian market.

The Brussels Court of Appeal's judgment first dismissed the procedural objections raised against the decision of the Belgian Competition Council. Despite the fact the procedure had been before the Council for a lengthy period of 7 years and 9 months, the Court noted that none of the claimants had provided specific arguments as to why this delay compromised their rights of defence (e.g. by identifying names of former staff members that had left the company and could no longer be contacted to give evidence). The Court also rejected the suggestion that the mere fact that the decision was not read out in a public hearing amounted to a breach of Article 149 of the Belgian Constitution and/or Article 6(1) European Convention on Human Rights. A challenge to the impartiality of the Competition Council was similarly dismissed.

However, on the merits of the case, the Court of Appeal overruled the Competition Council's decision that the concerted practice amounted to a restriction of competition by object. According to the Court, the Council failed to properly take into account the lobbying context in which the conversation took place. Referring to a previous judgment of the General Court of the EU, ECM Developments, the Court of Appeal stressed in particular that none of the relevant decision-making bodies were controlled by the cement producers. Furthermore, the participation of the cement producers in the consultative and decision-making process had taken place in an open, objective, transparent and non-discriminatory context. The Court of Appeal held that because the undertakings had not influenced the procedures to the extent of controlling and undermining them, they had not gone beyond permissible lobbying. Accordingly, the contested conduct had not taken place ‘on’ the market and could not give rise to a breach of competition law. In light hereof, the Court decided to annul the Council's decision, including the fines imposed therein.

This article was published in the Competition Law Newsletter of August 2016. Other articles in this newsletter:

  1. Court of Justice clarifies the legality of royalty payments in the event of revocation or non-infringement of the licensed patent 
  2. General Court confirms fines imposed on the basis of economic continuity in maritime hose cartel 
  3. European Commission imposes record cartel fine on truck manufacturers for price fixing 
  4. European Commission deems support measures in favour of Dutch football clubs in line with State aid rules 
  5. Dutch District Court ruled that parent companies cannot be held liable for damages arising from antitrust infringements committed by their subsidiaries 
  6. ACM lowered fines in the pepper cartel case 
  7. Dutch Supreme Court confirms the availability of a passing-on defence in antitrust damages litigation 
  8. Brussels Court of Appeal rules that concerted lobbying efforts of cement producers do not breach competition law 
  9. Belgian competition authority upholds licence refusal to football club White Star

Source: Competition Law Newsletter August 2016

Team

Related news

02.11.2021 NL law
Evidentiecriterium door de Afdeling ontgroend: weigering om terug te komen van boete evident onredelijk

Short Reads - De Afdeling oordeelt in haar uitspraak van 28 april 2021 (ECLI:NL:RVS:2021:908) voor de eerste keer expliciet dat een weigering om van een in rechte onaantastbaar besluit terug te komen evident onredelijk is. Dat de Afdeling het door haar afgestofte evidentiecriterium nu ook toepast, is een goede reden om deze uitspraak te bespreken in een blog. In dit blog gaan wij daarnaast ook in op enkele elementen uit de Wet arbeid vreemdelingen die in de uitspraak naar voren komen.

Read more

07.10.2021 NL law
Commission’s record fine for gun jumping upheld

Short Reads - Pre-closing covenants protecting the target’s value or commercial integrity pending merger clearance from the European Commission must be drafted carefully. The General Court confirmed the Commission’s record-breaking fines on Altice for violating the EU Merger Regulation’s notification and standstill obligations. According to the General Court, the mere possibility of exercising decisive influence over the target can result in a gun jumping breach.

Read more

07.10.2021 NL law
Commission reveals first piece of antitrust sustainability puzzle

Short Reads - The European Commission has published a Policy Brief setting out its preliminary views on how to fit the European Green Deal’s sustainability goals into the EU competition rules. Companies keen to be green may be left in limbo by a looming clash with more far-reaching proposals from national competition authorities. More pieces of the antitrust sustainability puzzle will fall into place as soon as the ongoing review of the guidelines on horizontal cooperation is finalised.

Read more