Judgment released in ECJ leniency documents disclosure case

The ECJ has handed down a judgment, following a reference from the German courts, on the interpretation of Council Regulation 1/2003 (Regulation 1/2003) concerning the access of third parties to documents supplied under a leniency procedure.  

The ECJ received the request for a preliminary ruling from the German court in relation to the proposed grant to a third party (who had purchased it from the infringing companies) of full access to the case file (which contained material voluntarily provided by a leniency applicant to the Bundeskartellamt under the leniency notice).  

In its judgment the ECJ states that Regulation 1/2003 must be interpreted as ‘not precluding a person who has been adversely affected by an infringement of European Union competition law and is seeking to obtain damages from being granted access to documents relating to a leniency procedure involving the perpetrator of that infringement’. The ECJ concluded, however, that it is for national courts to determine the conditions under which such access may be granted or refused under national laws. When national courts make this determination, they must carefully balance disclosure against the interests of the leniency applicant, because they provided such information voluntarily.