In March, several European producers obtained fine reductions in the gas insulated switchgear cartel case. The General Court considered that the aggravating circumstance of ‘leading role’ was not justified.
In this second set of decisions, the General Court criticized the method of calculating fines applied by the European Commission. If the Court were to confirm that the Japanese producers participated in the cartel, the fines imposed by the Commission on two of the four undertakings concerned would be annulled.
The General Court considered that using a different reference year for the turnover to calculate the basic amount of the fine is contrary to the principle of equal treatment. The Commission had taken into account 2001 (instead of 2003 for the European Undertakings) which was the last year of their individual participation to the infringement, before their participation through a joint venture.
Although the objective pursued by the European Commission was considered legitimate, the Court found that other methods could have been used, such as splitting the 2003 turnover of the joint venture, on the basis of their individual share of sales in 2001.
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