On 4 June 2009, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) held that a single meeting between Dutch mobile phone operators could result in anti-competitive collusion in breach of Article 81(1) EC. The meeting in question took place in June 2001 between five Dutch mobile phone operators (T-Mobile Netherlands, KPN Mobile, Orange Nederland, Vodafone Libertel and Telfort Mobile BV). The operators allegedly exchanged information about the commission paid to dealers for post-paid subscriptions. The case came before the ECJ on a preliminary reference from a Dutch court which is hearing the companies' appeals against fines imposed by the Dutch competition authority. The national court sought guidance on whether there can be a breach of Article 81(1) even where there is only a single instance of shared sensitive information.
The ECJ confirmed that a concerted practice arises where there is an anti-competitive object. Further, there can be an anti-competitive object even if the practice has no direct impact on the price paid by end users but only relates to the remuneration of dealers. On the issue of causation, even a single meeting between competitors may be sufficient to demonstrate that their object was anti-competitive. The case has now been referred back to the Dutch courts for a final ruling.