The EU General Court has annulled the Commission’s 2010 decision which found a cartel in the air cargo market and imposed fines of EUR 799 million on 11 airlines.
The annulment is on procedural grounds of failure to state reasons. The Court found inconsistency in the Commission decision (which has not been published yet). On the one hand, in the grounds for its decision the Commission refers to a single continuous infringement committed by all the addressees for which they are all jointly and severally liable - irrespective of whether the airlines operated on the routes concerned. However, the articles of the decision (operative parts) refer to four infringements relating to different periods and different routes and committed by different carriers, with liability attributed only to the carriers which participated in the unlawful conduct referred to in those articles.
The Court found that it was unclear and that the Commission had not examined the extent to which evidence set out in the grounds was liable to establish the existence of the separate infringements set out in the operative parts.
The European Commission has the possibility of appealing against the decision – on points of law only – to the Court of Justice, within two months of the General Court’s decision (mid-February) or, perhaps more likely, to adopt a fully reasoned decision if it considers this appropriate. It is too soon to know whether the Commission will follow either of these courses, or take any action.