26 mars 2011

EU General Court extends the presumptions of participation in a cartel, Viega GmbH, T-375/06

The European Commission imposed fines totalling EUR 314.75 million on 30 companies for having participated from 31/12/1988 to 01/04/2004 in a cartel in the copper fittings sector. German company Viega GmbH got he highest fine of EUR 54.29 million, and the EU General Court did not reduce it.

The judgment introduces two precisions on application of presumptions of participation in a cartel:

1) If a company participates in 5 of 12 cartel meetings, and other companies discuss the commercial practices of this company in its absence during other meetings, this company will be considered as participating in other meetings, too (§§ 30, 43, 50 and 51).
2) If a company exchanges information on its commercial practices with another company participating in a cartel, the former company will also be considered as participating in this cartel (§§ 55, 62).

The EU General Court also interpreted that a non-participation in meetings of an association of the sector producers (like the European Fittings Manufacturers Association or “Super EFMA”) serving as the structural or administrative core of a cartel, does not constitute a mitigating circumstance, since the cartel meetings usually happen informally (§ 94).

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