Articles

Court of Justice confirmed independence of EU and national leniency programmes

Court of Justice confirmed independence of EU and national leniency programmes

Court of Justice confirmed independence of EU and national leniency programmes

02.02.2016 NL law

On 20 January 2016, the Court of Justice ruled on the relationship between leniency applications submitted to the Commission and to national competition authorities ("NCAs") concerning the same cartel. In response to three questions referred by the Italian Council of State, the Court of Justice found that:

(i) instruments adopted within the context of the European Competition Network ("ECN") are not binding on NCAs;

(ii) there is no "legal link" between an immunity application submitted to the Commission and a summary application to an NCA in respect of the same cartel; and

(iii) EU law does not preclude national authorities from accepting a summary application for immunity even though the undertaking concerned did not apply for full immunity from fines to the Commission.

The judgment concerns leniency applications lodged by logistics company DHL before the Commission and the Italian competition authority ("AGCM") in 2007 and 2008 relating to several infringements in the international freight forwarding sector.

DHL received conditional immunity from the Commission for the entire freight forwarding sector (i.e. sea, air, and road forwarding). The Commission ultimately decided to limit its investigation to the air freight forwarding sector, thus leaving it open for NCAs to investigate infringements in the sea and road sectors. In parallel, DHL was the first to submit a summary application to the AGCM.

In 2011, the AGCM adopted an infringement decision concerning the road freight forwarding sector in Italy. DHL, however, failed to receive full immunity because the AGCM considered that DHL's initial summary application only provided details with respect to infringements in the international sea and air freight forwarding sectors. DHL subsequently appealed the decision up to Italy's highest court, essentially arguing that its summary application should have been assessed in light of the immunity application submitted to the Commission. In support of its appeal, DHL relied on the ECN Model Leniency Programme, the Commission Notice on Cooperation within the Network of Competition Authorities and the Commission Leniency Notice. Within this context, the Italian Council of State referred questions to the Court of Justice on the legal status of these measures.

The Court of Justice first held that instruments adopted by the ECN, including the ECN Model Leniency Programme, are not binding on NCAs. In that respect, the Court of Justice referred to its previous judgment in Pfleiderer where it had found the same to be true for the Commission Notice on Cooperation within the Network of Competition Authorities and the Commission Leniency Notice.

The Court of Justice also found that no provision of EU law requires NCAs to interpret a summary application in light of an application for immunity submitted to the Commission, irrespective of whether or not that summary application accurately reflects the content of the application submitted to the Commission. NCAs are also not required to contact the Commission or the undertaking itself in order to establish whether that undertaking has found specific examples of unlawful conduct in the sector allegedly covered by the application for immunity but which is not covered by the summary application.

Lastly, the Court of Justice held that NCAs are not precluded from accepting a summary application for immunity from an undertaking which has not submitted an application for full immunity to the Commission but rather an application for reduction of the fine.

As there is no legal link between EU and national leniency applications, companies should ensure to submit sufficiently detailed leniency applications in each relevant Member State - in particular as regards its scope - in parallel to an application to the Commission.

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

  1. Court of Justice reduced fine imposed on Galp Energía España and acknowledged excessive duration of General Court proceedings
  2. Court of Justice clarified the concept of a concerted practice for unilateral announcements
  3. Court of Justice dismissed Toshiba's appeal in the power transformers cartel case
  4. Belgium's "excess profit" tax scheme qualified as illegal state aid
  5. German Competition Authority fined ASICS for restricting Internet sales of its distributors

Team

Related news

08.08.2019 BE law
Regulating online platforms: piece of the puzzle

Articles - The new Regulation no. 2019/1150 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 June 2019 on promoting fairness and transparency for business users of online intermediation services, applicable as of 12 July 2020, is another piece of the puzzle regulating online platforms, this time focussing on the supply side of the platforms.

Read more

01.08.2019 NL law
Call of duty: Commission must state reasons when straying from its guidelines

Short Reads - The European Commission has lost a second battle concerning its EUR 15 million fine imposed upon interdealer broker ICAP, this time before the European Court of Justice. The Court upheld the previous judgment of the General Court on the basis of the Commission's failure to state reasons concerning its fining methodology of cartel facilitator ICAP. This may lead to more reasoned Commission decisions in the future - deterrence of cartel behaviour does not justify keeping the methodology for setting the fines as a 'black box'.

Read more

01.08.2019 NL law
General court dismisses all five appeals in the optical disk drives cartel

Short Reads - The General Court recently upheld a Commission decision finding that suppliers of optical disk drives colluded in bids for sales to Dell and HP by engaging in a network of parallel bilateral contacts over a multi-year period. The General Court rejected applicants' arguments regarding the Commission's fining methodology, including that the Commission ought to have provided reasons for not departing from the general methodology set out in its 2006 Guidelines.

Read more

22.07.2019 NL law
HagaZiekenhuis beboet voor datalek

Short Reads - Enkele maanden geleden vierden we de eerste verjaardag van de Algemene Verordening Gegevensbescherming (AVG) met een uitgebreide beschouwing  over de belangrijkste  ontwikkelingen uit  het eerste jaar van de verordening. We concludeerden daarin onder meer dat de door sommigen voorspelde hoge bestuurlijke boetes voor overtredingen van de AVG tot dan toe  - zowel in Nederland als in de andere EU-lidstaten - grotendeels waren uitgebleven.

Read more

01.08.2019 NL law
Brand owners beware: Commission tough on cross-border sales restrictions

Short Reads - The European Commission recently imposed a EUR 6.2 million fine on Hello Kitty owner Sanrio for preventing its licensees from selling licensed merchandising products across the entire EEA. Sanrio is the second licensor (after Nike) to be fined for imposing territorial sales restrictions on its non-exclusive licensees for licensed merchandise. A third investigation into allegedly similar practices by Universal Studios is ongoing. The case confirms the Commission's determination to tackle these practices, regardless of type or form.

Read more

17.07.2019 BE law
EU Single-Use Plastics Directive is now in force: brief recap

Articles - Plastic is a significant and growing global concern. A recent study commissioned by WWF and carried out by the University of Newcastle, Australia, suggests that people are consuming around 2,000 tiny pieces of plastic every week (which is approximately 5 grams of plastic, the weight of a credit card).  In this context, the EU adopted a new directive aiming at tackling marine litter generated from 10 single-use plastic products and from abandoned fishing gear and oxo-degradable plastics. This is called the Single-Use Plastics Directive and has entered into force this month, on 2 July 2019.

Read more

Our website uses functional cookies for the functioning of the website and analytic cookies that enable us to generate aggregated visitor data. We also use other cookies, such as third party tracking cookies - please indicate whether you agree to the use of these other cookies:

Privacy – en cookieverklaring