On 10 March 2016 the European Court of Justice (ECJ) annulled a decision of the Commission requesting information on the ground that the decision did not sufficiently explain why the request was necessary. In 2008 and 2009 the Commission carried out inspections at the premises of several cement companies and initiated a procedure for alleged infringements. Those infringements included restrictions on trade flows in the European Economic Area, market-sharing, price coordination and related anti-competitive practices in the cement and related product markets. In 2011 the Commission asked the companies to answer a questionnaire concerning suspected infringements.
Several companies brought actions for annulment before the General Court. They criticised the Commission for not having adequately explained the alleged infringements and for the disproportionate volume of the information requested and the burdensome format of the required response. On 14 March 2014 the General Court confirmed the lawfulness of the requests for information sent by the Commission.
However, upon appeal by the companies the ECJ found that the questions sent by the Commission to the companies were extremely numerous and covered very different types of information. The Commission's decisions do not disclose unequivocally the grounds for suspicion of infringement and why the requested information is necessary for the investigation. An excessively succinct, vague and generic statement of reasons may not justify requests for information which, as in the present cases, occurred several months after the opening of the investigation and more than two years after the first inspections. The ECJ noted that the decisions were adopted at a time when the Commission already had information that would have allowed it to present more precisely the suspicion of infringement weighing on the companies involved. Consequently, it concluded that the statement of reasons for the Commission decisions did not meet the requisite legal standard and set aside the judgments of the General Court as well as the Commission decisions.