The General Court has handed down its judgment in the appeal by Koninklijke Grolsch NV against a Commission decision finding that it had infringed Article 101(1) TFEU by operating an illegal price-fixing cartel in the beer market in the Netherlands. In annulling the Commission’s decision the General Court found that the Commission had failed to prove Grolsch's direct participation in the cartel.
Koninklijke Grolsch had argued that it did not participate directly in the infringement of Article 101 TFEU - there was only one instance of a director of Koninklijke Grolsch attending a relevant meeting and other alleged attendees were actually employees of a subsidiary of Koninklijke Grolsch. The General Court noted that the Commission had not disputed the proposition that the attendees at the cartel meetings (except for the one director of Koninklijke Grolsch) were not employees of Koninklijke Grolsch, but of its subsidiary and concluded that it did not consider the evidence from the director of Koninklijke Grolsch, and attendance at one meeting by that director, was sufficient proof of Koninklijke Grolsch’s participation in the ongoing continuous multilateral cooperation between the breweries.
In terms of the liability of a parent company (i.e. Koninklijke Grolsch) for the acts of a subsidiary, the General Court held that a decision attributing liability on a parent company must contain a detailed statement of reasons for attributing the infringement to the parent company, and it is not sufficient to treat the corporate group as one without assessing the economic, organisational and legal links between the parent company and its subsidiary. In this respect, the Commission failed to provide details in the decision as to the reasons for attributing to Koninklijke Grolsch liability on the basis the conduct of a subsidiary (attendance by the subsidiary's employees in the meetings in question).