2019:283 Powszechny Zakład Ubezpieczeń na Życie S.A. v Prezes Urzędu Ochrony Konkurencji i Konsumentów

Court Court of Justice
Date of ruling 3 April 2019
Case name (short version) Powszechny Zakład Ubezpieczeń na Życie S.A. v Prezes Urzędu Ochrony Konkurencji i Konsumentów
Case Citation Case C-617/17

ECLI:EU:C:2019:283

Key words Reference for a preliminary ruling — Competition — Article 82 EC — Abuse of a dominant position — Regulation (EC) No 1/2003 — Article 3(1) — Application of national competition law — Decision of a national competition authority to impose one fine on the basis of national law and another on the basis of EU law — Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union — Article 50 — Principle of ne bis in idem — Whether applicable
Basic context This request for a preliminary ruling concerns the interpretation of the principle of ne bis in idem enshrined in Article 50 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, proclaimed in Nice on 7 December 2000 (‘the Charter’), and in Article 3(1) of Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2003 of 16 December 2002 on the implementation of the rules on competition laid down in Articles 81 and 82 of the Treaty (OJ 2003 L 1, p. 1).

The request has been made in proceedings between Powszechny Zakład Ubezpieczeń na Życie S.A. (‘PZU Życie’) and the Prezes Urzędu Ochrony Konkurencji i Konsumentów (Head of the Polish Office of Competition and Consumer Protection, ‘the Head of the UOKiK’) concerning a decision of the latter to fine the former for an abuse of a dominant position on the basis of infringements of national and EU competition law.

Points arising – admissibility
Points arising – substance Dominant position – Union rules – National rules – Parallel application – Consequences – Application of national law in the absence of initiation by the Commission of proceedings for the adoption of a decision under Regulation No 1/2003 – Obligation on national authorities also to apply Article 82 EC

Competition – Fines – Decision of the national competition authority imposing a fine under national law and a fine under Union law – Infringement of the ne bis in idem principle – None – Condition – Compliance with the principle of proportionality

In the Powszechny judgment Zakład Ubezpieczeń na Życie (C-617/17), delivered on 3 April 2019, the Court ruled, in substance, on the interpretation of the ne bis in idem principle set out in Article 50 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. This judgment is part of a dispute between Powszechny Zakład Ubezpieczeń na Życie S.A., an insurance company, and the Polish Competition Authority concerning the latter’s decision imposing on it, on the basis of an abuse of a dominant position, a fine for the infringement of national competition law and a fine for the infringement of EU competition law.

In that context, the Court held that the ne bis in idem principle does not preclude a national competition authority from imposing on an undertaking, in the same decision, a fine for infringement of national competition law and a fine for infringement of Article 82 EC. In such a situation, the national competition authority must nevertheless ensure that the fines taken together are proportionate to the nature of the infringement.

In that regard, the Court emphasised that it follows from its case-law that the purpose of that principle is to prevent an undertaking from being found guilty or prosecuted afresh, which presupposes that undertaking has been found guilty or declared not liable by a previous decision against which no further appeal lies.

Consequently, the Court concluded that the ne bis in idem principle is not intended to apply in a situation in which the national competition authority applies in parallel, in accordance with Article 3(1) of Regulation No 1/2003{1}, national competition law and the rules of the Competition Union and, pursuant to Article 5 of that regulation, penalises an undertaking by imposing on it, in the same decision, a fine for infringement of that law and a fine for infringement of those rules.

Intervention
Interim measures
Order The principle of ne bis in idem enshrined in Article 50 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, proclaimed in Nice on 7 December 2000, must be interpreted as not precluding a national competition authority from fining an undertaking in a single decision for an infringement of national competition law and for an infringement of Article 82 EC. In such a situation, the national competition authority must nevertheless ensure that the fines are proportionate to the nature of the infringement.
Fine changed
Case duration 1 year 5 months
Judge-rapporteur Jürimäe
Advocate-general Wahl
Notes on academic writings
  1. Idot, Laurence: Application parallèle du droit de l’Union et du droit national, Europe 2019 Juin Comm. nº 6 p.22 (FR)
  2. Giannaccari, Andrea: Corte di giustizia UE, tutela della concorrenza e principio del „ne bis in idem“, Mercato concorrenza regole 2019 p.157-162 (IT)
  3. Decocq, Georges: Le principe ne bis idem ne s’oppose pas à ce qu’une autorité nationale de concurrence inflige à une entreprise deux amendes dans la même décision, Revue de jurisprudence commerciale 2019 p.414-417 (FR)

 

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