In this article, we give a factual overview of significant case developments at EU level in April/May 2017, and then provide a more detailed analysis of important substantive or procedural developments addressed in these cases.
Summary of Significant Case Developments
Advocate General Tanchev recommends upholding judgment in Gas Insulated Switchgear cartel case
On 26 April 2017, Advocate General Tanchev delivered an opinion in which he recommended upholding a General Court ("GC") judgment, which dismissed the claims brought by Toshiba and Mitsubishi Electric against the re-imposition of fines amounting to approximately € 36 million. These fines were re-imposed by the European Commission for the companies' participation in the Gas Insulated Switchgear cartel case (See VBB on Competition Law, Volume 2016, No. 1, available at www.vbb.com) (Case C-180/16, Toshiba v Commission).
In particular, AG Tanchev took the view that the GC had not erred in finding that the Commission did not need to issue a new Statement of Objections prior to the re-adoption of the 2012 Gas Insulated Switchgear decision (see below Section 1.2). AG Tanchev also considered that the General Court had been correct to find that the Commission had not breached the principle of equal treatment when calculating the fine imposed on Toshiba. Finally, the AG concluded that Toshiba's fine should not be reduced to reflect its level of participation in the infringement because that issue had already been decided in the course of the appeal of the original 2007 Gas Insulated Switchgear decision.
Court of Justice of European Union dismisses appeal in Exotic Fruits (Bananas) cartel case
On 27 April 2017, the Court of Justice of the European Union ("ECJ") dismissed an appeal lodged by banana importer Pacific Fruit (and its parent companies) against a judgment of the General Court ("GC"), which upheld the European Commission's decision finding that Pacific Fruit had participated in an illegal price-fixing cartel for bananas sold in Greece, Italy and Portugal (See VBB on Competition Law, Volume 2015, No. 6, available at www.vbb.com) (Case C-469/15 P, FSL and Others v Commission).
In particular, the ECJ rejected Pacific Fruit's challenge to the Commission's reliance in its decision on documents collected and transmitted by the Italian customs and finance police, on the grounds that the company had not established that such transmission, whose lawfulness is governed by national law, had been declared unlawful by a national court (see Section 1.2). In addition, the ECJ confirmed that Pacific Fruit's conduct restricted competition by object (See Section 1.2).
Court of Justice of European Union confirms General Court's judgment in Heat Stabilisers cartel case
On 27 April 2017, the Court of Justice of the European Union ("ECJ") dismissed an appeal brought by Akzo Nobel against a judgment of the General Court ("GC") in connection with the Heat Stabilisers cartel case (Case C-516/15 P, Akzo Nobel v Commission).
In particular, the ECJ rejected Akzo Nobel's claim that the annulment of the fines imposed on its two subsidiaries (i.e., Akzo GmbH and Akzo BV) following the expiration of the limitation period in relation to the conduct of these subsidiaries should have led to the annulment of the fine imposed on it as a parent company (see below Section 1.2).
Advocate General Szpunar recommends dismissing appeal against General Court's judgment in TV and Computer Monitor Tubes cartel case
On 18 May 2018, Advocate General ("AG") Szpunar recommended dismissing appeals lodged by LGE and Philips against judgments delivered by the General Court ("GC") in relation to the TV and Computer Monitor Tubes cartel case (Joined cases C-588/15 P, LG Electronics v Commission and C-622/15 P, Koninklijke Philips Electronics v Commission).
AG Szpunar focused his Opinion on the issue of whether the rights of defence of LG and Philips, as parent companies of a joint venture, had been breached. In the case at hand, the Commission had addressed a Statement of Objections to LG and Philips, but not to their joint venture (whose conduct was at issue in the contested decision), as that entity had since gone into insolvency. In his Opinion, AG Szpunar concluded that the Commission's decision not to formally attribute liability for the infringement to the joint venture, as well as not to address the Statement of Objections to it, did not constitute an irregularity capable of undermining LGE and Philips' rights of defence.
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