By a decision of 20 December 2001 the European Commission imposed fines totalling €313.7 million on the ten undertakings concerned for their involvement in a price-fixing and market-sharing cartel in the carbonless paper sector which sought essentially to achieve concerted price increases. Sappi, the eleventh participant in the cartel, enjoyed total immunity, since it was the first undertaking to cooperate with the investigation and provided decisive evidence.
The ten companies brought actions against that decision before the Court of First Instance, seeking its annulment and/or a reduction in the fine. Following the liquidation of Carrs Paper, the Court of First Instance held, on 31 May 2006, that there was no need to give a ruling in that case (T-123/02).
In its judgment the Court rejects the applicants’ arguments seeking annulment of the decision.
As regards the fines imposed, the Court holds that those imposed on two undertakings must be reduced and rejects the remainder of the applications for reduction.
?? Papelera Guipuzcoana de Zicuñaga, SA: the Court finds that the Commission failed to establish that Zicuñaga participated in market-sharing practices. It takes the view that such a factor must be taken into consideration when the gravity of the infringement is assessed and when the fine is determined. Since the Commission did not take account of that factor when determining the final amount of the fine imposed on Zicuñaga, the Court holds that Zicuñaga’s final fine must be reduced by 15%. The total amount of the fine is therefore reduced from €1.54 million to €1.309 million.
?? Arjo Wiggins Appleton Ltd (“AWA”): the Court finds that the Commission treated two of the undertakings concerned (AWA and Mougeot) in an unequal manner. The Court states that the evidence provided by AWA was of a similar quality to that provided by Mougeot. Even if, unlike AWA, Mougeot provided documents dating back to the material time and if, on certain points, its statements are more detailed, the information given by AWA relates to a longer period and covers a wider geographical area. Thus, the Court holds that AWA had to be granted the same reduction on account of its cooperation as Mougeot, namely 50%, instead of the 35% granted by the Commission. The total amount of the fine imposed on AWA is therefore reduced from €184.27 million to €141.75 million. [26 April 2007]