The Court of Justice dismisses the appeals of five companies against the judgments of the General Court upholding the fines imposed for their participation in a cartel on the international removals market
In addition, the Court of Justice upholds the fine imposed on Portielje, which the General Court had annulled
By decision of 11 March 20081, the Commission imposed fines totalling €32.76 million on ten undertakings for having participated, in the course of various periods between October 1984 and September 2003, in a cartel on the international removal services market in Belgium. The cartel related to the direct or indirect fixing of prices, market sharing and the manipulation of the procedures for the submission of tenders, in particular by issuing false quotes to customers and through a compensation system for rejected offers.
The General Court, in its judgments of 16 June 20112, upheld, in essence, that decision of the Commission. However, with regard to the company Gosselin, the General Court reduced the amount of the fine imposed from €3.28 million to €2.32 million. With regard to Stichting Administratiekantoor Portielje, the parent foundation of Gosselin, the General Court held that it did not constitute an undertaking for the purposes of competition law. Consequently, the General Court annulled the fine of €270 000 to be paid jointly and severally with Gosselin.
Five companies appealed to the Court of Justice against those judgments of the General Court. At the same time, the Commission brought an appeal against the judgment of the General Court which annulled the fine imposed on Portielje3.
In today’s judgments, the Court of Justice dismisses the companies’ appeals. As a result, the fines imposed on those companies are maintained.
However, concerning the appeal brought by the Commission, the Court of Justice sets aside the judgment of the General Court in so far as it annulled the fine imposed on Portielje. According to the Court of Justice, the General Court erred in law by holding that a sanction could be imposed on Portielje, the parent foundation of Gosselin, only if, viewed in isolation, it could be classified as an undertaking for the purposes of competition law4. Furthermore, in light of the fact that Portielje exercised 100% control of Gosselin, the General Court was wrong to hold that the mere fact that Portielje did not take any formal management decision during the period in respect of which it was held to be jointly and severally liable for payment of the fine was sufficient to rebut the presumption of the actual exercise of decisive influence on Gosselin.
For those reasons, the Court of Justice sets aside the judgment of the General Court (in Case C-440/11 P) in so far as it annulled the fine imposed on Portielje.
CARTEL ON THE INTERNATIONAL REMOVAL SERVICES MARKET
NOTE: An appeal, on a point or points of law only, may be brought before the Court of Justice against a judgment or order of the General Court. In principle, the appeal does not have suspensive effect. If the appeal is admissible and well founded, the Court of Justice sets aside the judgment of the General Court. Where the state of the proceedings so permits, the Court of Justice may itself give final judgment in the case.
Otherwise, it refers the case back to the General Court, which is bound by the decision given by the Court of Justice on the appeal.
Unofficial document for media use, not binding on the Court of Justice.
The full text of the judgment is published on the CURIA website on the day of delivery.
Press contact: Christopher Fretwell (+352) 4303 3355
Commission Decision C(2008) 926 final of 11 March 2008 relating to a proceeding under Article 81 [EC] and Article 53 of the EEA Agreement (Case COMP/38.543 – International Removal Services). Subsequently, in its Decision C (2009) 5810 final of 24 July 2009, the Commission reduced the original amount of the fine imposed on Gosselin Group. Thus, the total amount of the fines imposed was reduced to €31.54 million.
Joined Cases T-208/08 Gosselin Group and Stichting Administratiekantoor Portielje v Commission and T-209/08 Stichting Administratiekantoor Portielje v Commission.