26 nov. 2012
Broken seal leads to a fine of € 38 million for E.ON Energie AG, C-89/11 P
The European Commission suspecting E.ON Energie AG in an anti-competitive agreement sent them an inspection in Munchen, which sealed a door at the end of the day in order to continue in the morning. The seal was measuring 90 mm by 60 mm. In the morning, the white adhesive, by means of which the seal had been fixed to the substrate, remained on the latter in the form of “VOID” message about 5 mm high, distributed over the whole surface of the adhesive label. The seal became transparent, so that the “VOID” message was visible on the seal (§ 8). Thus, the European Commission presumed that the company people broke the seal in order to enter the room and destroy proofs.
However the shelf life of the seal itself had been expired, and there was no damage to the very letters of the seal. Therefore, E.ON Energie asked for a measure of inquiry to that matter, but the EU General Court denied the motion (§§ 109-110). The EU Court of Justice replies that this denial is not a subject to appeal (§ 115).
The ECJ held that the fine of € 38 million representing 0.14 % of E.ON Energie’s annual turnover could not be considered as disproportional due to the need to ensure deterrent effect. The maximum fine in the case of broking the seal could go up to 1 % of annual turnover.
As I already wrote in previous posts, it is sad that the deterrent effect principle is never applied when the European Commission of the European Parliament themselves breach EU law and fundamental human rights.