On 21 June 2012, Advocate General Bot gave an opinion on E.ON’s appeal against a General Court judgment which upheld the European Commission’s decision to fine E.ON €38m for breaking a seal during a Commission investigation. On 29 and 30 May 2006, Commission officials carried out unannounced inspections (so-called dawn raids) at the premises of energy companies in Germany, including E.ON. During their inspection at E.ON, officials placed a seal on an office door which they locked to secure documents with the aim of returning to inspect these documents later. On the second day of its inspection, the Commission found the seal had been broken. E.ON denied breaking the seal and came up with a number of explanations for why it had broken (e.g. the seal was outdated or not fixed properly). E.ON put forward six pleas, of which the Advocate General agreed with the General Court’s decision to reject five pleas, and recommended the ECJ to reject them. However, the Advocate General disagreed with the General Court on E.ON’s final plea where E.ON alleged that the General Court failed to adopt the principle of proportionality in calculating the level of the fine, and had failed to regard mitigating factors. In particular, the Advocate General found that the General Court did not carry out a proper assessment of the level of fine imposed on E.ON, and there was no clear-cut calculation of the fine imposed on E.ON. In addition, the General Court failed to take into consideration the mitigating factor that E.ON’s act was one of negligence, not intention. As a result, the Advocate General recommended the ECJ to uphold this final plea, thereby annulling the decision and referring it back to the General Court for a proper calculation of E.ON’s fine. Read more.
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E.ON case for obstructing commission inspection: Advocate General opinion on E.ON Energie’s appeal against fine imposed for breaking a seal
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