The French National Pharmacist Order has launched a challenge before the European Court of First Instance against the European Commission’s powers of investigation in competition cases. In November 2008, the Commission carried out a surprise investigation on the premises of the Pharmacist Order. This investigation arose from complaints that the Pharmacist Order and its network of members were restricting access to the market for biomedical analysis. At issue is the Pharmacist Order regulation (in line with French law) that only biologists are allowed to own biomedical analysis companies which, it is alleged, contravenes EU competition law. The Pharmacist Order claims that the investigation should not have taken place because the Order is a public body with no commercial activities and could not therefore be considered as an “association of undertakings” subject to EU competition law.
This decision could be important for similar professional organisations that regulate professional activities. In the event that the Pharmacist Order succeeds, the investigation will be found invalid.