The Court of First Instance (CFI) has upheld the European Commission’s decision against members of a carbonless paper price-fixing cartel, but reduced the fines imposed by the Commission on two cartel members. Carbonless paper, otherwise known as self-copying paper, is used to create duplicate documents. In December 2001, the Commission ruled that 11 producers of carbonless paper had conspired to fix prices and share markets between 1992 and 1995. The Commission imposed fines on all but one cartel member – which was granted full immunity under the Commission’s Leniency Program – totaling over €313 million. Subsequently, the companies brought actions against that decision before the CFI, seeking an annulment or, in the alternative, reduced fines.
The CFI rejected arguments that the decision should be annulled, but ultimately granted reduced fines to two cartel participants. Specifically, the CFI reduced the fine imposed on Arjo Wiggins Appleton Plc from €184.3 million to €141.8 million on grounds that the company deserved greater leniency for cooperating with the investigation than was originally awarded by the Commission. The CFI also reduced the fine imposed on Papelera Guipuzcoana de Zicuñaga SA from €1.54 million to €1.31 based upon its finding that the Commission failed to establish that the company participated in the cartel’s market sharing activities. In denying requests for reduced fines by the other cartel members, the CFI rejected arguments that the Commission had overestimated the duration of the cartel and its effects on the market.