Competition: European Court of Justice rules that Commission can claim compensation for cartel damages before national courts

The European Court of Justice (“ECJ”) handed down a preliminary ruling regarding the Commission’s right to claim compensation for cartel damages before a national court. The Commission had brought an action before the Brussels Commercial Court to recover damages from four groups of companies, namely Otis, Kone, Schindler and Thyssenkrupp. The Commission had found that these companies had breached Article 101 TFEU by operating cartels in the market for the installation and maintenance of lifts and escalators.

The Brussels Commercial Court referred several questions to the ECJ to ask, particularly, whether the right of access to a tribunal and the principle of equality of arms safeguarded by the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights prevented the Commission, where it has made a cartel decision, from claiming compensation before national courts for loss suffered by the EU as a consumer of the products that were the subject of that cartel. The ECJ held that any person, including the EU, can claim compensation for the harm suffered where there is a causal link between that harm and a prohibited agreement or practice.

The ECJ found, in particular, that it falls to the national court alone to determine individually the loss caused to each of the persons to have brought an action for damages and that EU law prohibits the Commission from using information collected in the course of a competition investigation for purposes other than those of the investigation. Therefore, the ECJ concluded that the Charter of Fundamental Rights does not prevent the Commission from filing a claim with a national court, on behalf of the EU, for damages in respect of loss suffered by the EU as a result of an agreement or practice contrary to Article 101 TFEU. Source: ECJ Press Release 06/11/2012

Roschier, Attorneys Ltd. - Sweden