On February 26 2015 the Paris Court of Appeal confirmed that a trade association cannot benefit from the 10% turnover cap applicable to fines imposed on companies because a specific €3 million cap is provided for associations and other offenders which are not companies.

T^he National Federation of Approved Associations had lodged a complaint with the Competition Authority regarding practices implemented by the National Association of Chartered Accountants on the online tax filing portal and 10 organisations representing approved management bodies.

The authority found that the National Association of Chartered Accountants and Expert-comptable média association (ECMA) were guilty of abuse of a dominant position. The authority fined the ECMA €1.1 million.

The ECMA appealed, noting a contradiction in the authority's decision. According to the ECMA, the authority could not apply the €3 million cap specific to non-company offenders and simultaneously establish abuse of a dominant position, which can be attributed only to bodies with company status. The ECMA indicated that it had been ordered to pay a fine of 17% of its income, even though the legal cap for penalties specific to companies is 10% of turnover, reduced to 5% if grievances are not opposed.

The court of appeal dismissed these arguments in order to establish the offence of abuse of a dominant position by finding that the ECMA was considered to be a 'company' as it performed an economic activity. However, when it came to determining the fine cap, the ECMA was considered to be an 'association' governed by the Law of 1901, which governs the organisation and management of the National Association of Chartered Accountants actions. The ECMA is not a 'company' according to the article which fixes the legal fine cap.

The decision imposed a more severe fine on the ECMA than that which would have been ordered if the same offence had been committed by a company and not an association.

For further information on this topic please contact Emmanuelle van den Broucke or Sara Pomar at Dentons by telephone (+33 1 4268 4800) or email (emmanuelle.vandenbroucke@dentons.com or sara.pomar@dentons.com). The Dentons website can be accessed at www.dentons.com.

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