Short Reads

Envelope maker's cartel fine annulled in first successful European settlement appeal

Envelope maker's cartel fine annulled in first successful European settlement appeal

Envelope maker's cartel fine annulled in first successful European settlement appeal

02.01.2017 NL law

On 13 December 2016, the General Court ("GC") annulled the € 4.7 million cartel fine the European Commission imposed on envelope maker Printeos. The GC ruled that the Commission failed to state adequate reasons in the settlement decision with regard to why the cartelists were granted different fine reductions.

On 10 December 2014, the Commission fined five envelope makers for coordinating prices and allocating customers for certain types of envelopes. The envelope makers had entered into a voluntary settlement for which they each received a ten per cent fine reduction. In addition, Printeos received a fifty per cent fine reduction because it cooperated with the Commission during the investigation. The Commission further adjusted the fines of the cartelists on the basis of paragraph 37 of the fining guidelines. This paragraph allows the Commission to depart from the methodology set out in the fining guidelines if the particularities of a given case require such an adjustment.

Printeos appealed the settlement decision arguing that the Commission failed to provide the reasons why it adjusted the basic amount of the fines imposed on the cartelists. In particular, Printeos complained that it was unclear why one of the parties received an additional fine reduction and that therefore it was unable to assess whether the settlement decision was in line with the principle of equal treatment.

The GC agreed with Printeos. It ruled that the principle of equal treatment requires the Commission to explain with sufficient clarity and precision how it deviated from the methodology of the guidelines. Because the underlying decision did not contain sufficient reasoning, Printeos was not in a position to effectively dispute the merits of the Commission’s approach. Subsequently, the GC was unable to fully exercise its powers of judicial review with regard to whether the principle of equal treatment had been complied with.

Therefore, the GC concluded that the contested decision was vitiated by a failure to state adequate reasons. As a consequence, the GC annulled the contested settlement decision. The judgement shows that undertakings can successfully appeal settlement decisions and underlines the Commission’s duty to adequately state reasons for its settlement decisions.

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

1. General Court rules on the concept of a single and continuous infringement in the smart card chips cartel case 
2. District Court of Limburg rules that damages claims in the Dutch prestressing steel case are time-barred
3. ACM established guiding principles in relation to sustainability arrangements
4. Belgian Competition Authority confirms that the acquisition by a dominant player of a small competitor is not automatically an abuse of a dominant position

Team

Related news

21.10.2021 EU law
Law and Artificial Intelligence (part three): towards a European perspective in intellectual property? The European Parliament goes one step further…

Articles - For the European Union, it is time to have uniformed rules on artificial intelligence (AI). On 20 October 2020, the European Parliamentary Assembly adopted, on the basis of three reports, three resolutions on AI from three different perspectives. These resolutions have recently (on 6 October 2021) been published in the Official Journal.

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

21.10.2021 EU law
Law and Artificial Intelligence (part two): towards a European framework in line with the ethical values of the EU? The European Parliament goes one step further…

Articles - For the European Union, it is time to have uniformed rules on artificial intelligence (AI). On 20 October 2020, the European Parliamentary Assembly adopted, on the basis of three reports, three resolutions on AI from three different perspectives. These resolutions have recently (on 6 October 2021) been published in the Official Journal.

Read more

07.10.2021 NL law
Court of Appeal provides guidance for further course of proceedings in prestressing steel litigation

Short Reads - On 27 July 2021, the Court of Appeal of Den Bosch issued an interim judgment in the Dutch prestressing steel litigation, ruling on three issues: (i) the obligation of claimant to furnish facts; (ii) the assignment of claims; and (iii) the liability of the parent companies. In short, the Court of Appeal allowed the claimant Deutsche Bahn another opportunity to supplement the facts needed to substantiate its claims in the next phase of the proceedings.

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
ACM walks the walk: first-ever vertical price coordination fine

Short Reads - The Dutch Competition Authority (“ACM”) has claimed a first victim in its vertical restraints battle. Samsung Electronics was fined nearly EUR 40 million for having meddled in the online resale prices for televisions at seven retailers. Compared to the European Commission’s fines on four consumer electronics producers for resale price maintenance (“RPM”), the ACM’s summary decision seems to refer to a ‘light’ version of RPM: systematic price coordination without any threats, sanctions or incentives for the retailers to stick to the price.

Read more