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COMMISSION FINES TRETORN AND ITS DISTRIBUTORS FOR PREVENTING THE EXPORT OFTENNIS BALLS IN THE EC

European Commission - IP/94/1257   21/12/1994

Other available languages: FR DE DA ES NL IT PT EL

In  a decision  finding that  they have  infringed Article 85(1) of  the EC
Treaty,  the Commission  has imposed  a fine  of ECU 600 000  on the tennis
ball manufacturer  Tretorn,  and  fines  of ECU 10 000  each  on  Tretorn's
distributors  Formula Sport International  (United Kingdom), Fabra (Italy),
Zürcher (Switzerland), and Van Megen (Netherlands).

Following an investigation carried out on Tretorn's premises  by Commission
officials, the decision  finds that between  1987 and 1989 Tretorn  and its
distributors engaged in concerted action  to prevent trade in  tennis balls
between Member States.

Several  mechanisms were  used:  export  bans, systematic  notification  of
cases of  parallel importing, and, in order  to prevent such importing, the
suspension of deliveries to certain markets.

The  general ban on  exports and the barriers  which Tretorn  placed in the
way of parallel  imports were not just  the result of unilateral  action on
Tretorn's  part: although they were not  committed to paper, they formed an
integral part  of Tretorn's  distribution or  sales agreements,  or in  any
event were the outcome of a  concerted practice on the part of Tretorn  and
its distributors.

The  immediate  object  and  effect   of  this  conduct  was   to  restrict
competition, to  limit trade  between Member States,  and to partition  the
common market, thus obstructing the  achievement of one of  the fundamental
objectives of the Treaty, which aims  to integrate the market. The  conduct
at  issue   also  enabled  Tretorn   and  the  distributors   to  follow  a
differentiated pricing policy.

Tretorn's    distribution   agreements    were   not    notified   to   the
Commission,which  means  that  they cannot  be  considered  for  individual
exemption.

In setting the  amount of the fine,  the decision attaches great  weight to
the fact  that  the infringement  impeded  the  integration of  the  single
market,  which  is  one  of  the  fundamental  objectives  of  the  Treaty;
Community law is  very clear on that  point. There has consequently  been a
serious breach of Community law.

In the case of the distributors the Commission  takes into account the fact
that they  bear less responsibilty  for the infringement:  it is reasonable
to  suppose that  they  fell in  with Tretorn's  wishes,  though they  were
doubtless pursuing their own interests too.

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