Search terms: Competition, France
The Commercial Court has confirmed that applicants can disclose evidence obtained in the course of the competition procedure if such disclosure is necessary for the exercise of their rights. The court was ruling on two damages cases in which the complainants asked the court to order the Competition Authority to disclose evidence showing injury, which had been obtained in the course of competition proceedings.
A company involved in a cartel in the mass-market laundry detergent distribution sector blew the whistle to the Competition Authority in order to benefit from the leniency procedure under the Commercial Code. Subsequently, the three other cartel members also made an application for leniency which revealed the existence of a complex and continuous agreement.
In two separate cases, the Paris Court of Appeal has ruled in favour of the Competition Authority's seizure of the entire contents of company electronic mailboxes in its investigations. The mailboxes contained items unrelated to the investigations, including personal emails and correspondence with the undertakings' lawyers. These decisions are worrying, as they threaten attorney-client privilege in France.
After dealing with transactions by cheque, and before it looks into automatic debits, the Competition Authority has turned its attention to payment card transactions – more specifically, the inter-bank fees set by GIE Cartes Bancaires. The inter-bank fees charged on the use of bank cards raise competition concerns with regard to the rules on restrictive agreements.
The Competition Authority has issued an official notice summarising its decision-making practice and policy regarding fines. The document, which is binding on the authority except in special circumstances or for public policy reasons, echoes in a number of aspects the EU guidelines on the method of setting fines.
The Court of Cassation recently handed down two separate judgments that have made it possible to compare the respective merits of using exclusive or quantitative selective distribution systems in terms of the network head's freedom to choose distributors.
Fifteen French companies have been found guilty of participating in a general market sharing cartel of public markets relating to the restoration of historical monuments in various regions of France. The case concerned practices limited to a part of the national territory and therefore only national law applied. However, the Competition Authority decided to apply European law in order to ensure a single standard of proof.
The Competition Authority recently ruled on possible anti-competitive practices allegedly implemented by the major LPG suppliers against large retail stores when the latter sought to market their own-label gas bottles. The authority decided not to penalise the undertakings and to close the file: it has abandoned both the cartel charge and the charge of abuse of collective dominant position.
A recent decision of the Paris Court of Appeal has rightly restated a principle of EU law that is frequently overlooked by litigants – a clause that fails to comply with the EU Block Exemption Regulation is not necessarily anti-competitive. Litigants frequently attempt to rely on the competition rules to gain contractual advantages, but by definition, competiton law exists for the protection of competition, not to protect competitors.
The commitment procedure allows undertakings to resolve the competition concerns contained in the Competition Authority's preliminary assessment and to propose commitments in order for companies to avoid being penalised for restrictive agreements or abuses of dominance.
The Commercial Chamber of the Court of Cassation has issued its second ruling in the ongoing mobile phone litigation. In contrast to an earlier appeal court decision, the Court of Cassation - overturning the case law on the issue - considered that damage to the economy could not be presumed merely from the existence of a restrictive agreement.
The Paris Court of Appeal has upheld a vertical restraints objection against SNCF, which holds a monopoly on the French railway transport market, and a travel agency. The court ruled that the fact that the contested practices restricted competition within the meaning of the regulation, but did not exceed the legal appreciability threshold, did not preclude the national competition authority from taking action.
Five years after the interim measures against Orange Caraïbe aimed to put an end to exclusivity deals, loyalty-inducing practices and price discrimination liable to fall foul of the Commercial Code and the EC Treaty, the Competition Authority has imposed a substantial fine on the France Telecom group. The decision reflects the authority's desire to implement EU law as broadly as possible.
In a recent case the Paris Court of Appeal clarified the extent to which excessive duration of the investigation procedure can weaken the effectiveness of the rights of defence in the second phase of the procedure, so as to nullify both the investigation and the final decision.
Following convictions for exchanges of information prior to several competitive tender invitations, the Competition Authority took the opportunity to define the obligations of undertakings bidding in a permeable market. In the authority's view, such exchanges of information between competing undertakings present a threat to competition.
The Competition Authority has rendered an eagerly awaited opinion on exclusivity relationships between electronic communications operators and distributors of contents and services. The minister of the economy asked whether exclusive rights acquired by some internet service providers were not likely to capture other operators' customers, thus distorting competition on the downstream market.
There has been a new development concerning the admissibility of unfairly obtained evidence. In a case involving the secret recording of telephone conversations in support of a claim of price fixing, the Paris Court of Appeal accepted this evidence but the Court of Cassation did not, claiming that evidence must be obtained fairly. However, the court of appeal legitimized its approach in light of the specificity of competition cases.
According to a recent survey of the French legal services market, 65% of law firms active in the business law market have reported feeling the effects of the economic crisis. However, competition law is a powerful tactical and strategic weapon, which - more so in times of crisis than any other - helps to ensure the success of a company's commercial objectives.
In a recent judgment the Paris Court of Appeal has confirmed the decision by which the Competition Council had, in an application for interim measures, ordered the suspension of the exclusive right conferred by Apple on Orange for the distribution of the iPhone in France as network operator and exclusive wholesaler.
The Law on the Modernization of the Economy gave the government six months to issue an order giving the future Competition Authority new powers and setting out its prerogatives. The order grants the new authority sweeping powers and resources, grants new procedural rights to undertakings and includes a set of particularly complex transitional measures.