2017-190 report – Samsung SID Co. Ltd and Samsung SDI (Malaysia) Bhd v European Commission

people looking at the laptop

 

Court Court of Justice
Date of ruling 9 March 2017
Case name (short version) Samsung SDI Co. Ltd and Samsung SDI (Malaysia) Bhd v European Commission
Case Citation C-615/15 P

ECLI:EU:C:2017:190

Key words Appeal — Agreements, decisions and concerted practices — Global market for cathode ray tubes for television sets and computer monitors — Agreements and concerted practices on pricing, market sharing, customer allocation and output limitation — Fines — Guidelines on the method of setting fines— Determination of the value of sales relating to the infringement
Basic context Samsung SDI Co. Ltd and Samsung SDI (Malaysia) Bhd (“Samsung”) ) unsuccessfully appealed the judgment of the General Court of 9 September 2015, Samsung SDI and Others v Commission (T‑84/13, ‘the judgment under appeal’, EU:T:2015:611), by which the General Court dismissed their action for the annulment in part of Commission Decision C(2012) 8839 final of 5 December 2012 relating to a proceeding under Article 101 TFEU and Article 53 of the EEA Agreement (Case COMP/39.437 — TV and Computer Monitor Tubes) (‘the decision at issue’) in so far as it concerned them and for the reduction of the fine which had been imposed on them.
Points arising – admissibility
Points arising – substance The first ground of appeal, alleging that the General Court breached the obligation to state reasons and infringed the Guidelines on the method of setting fines as regards the taking into account, in the calculation of the fine, of CPT sales to which the cartel did not relate

 

20  In addition, in paragraph 52 of the judgment under appeal, the General Court noted that there was a link of complementarity between the various instances of conduct in question and that they formed part of an overall plan, with the result that the Commission was entitled to characterise them as a single infringement. It is settled case-law that, if the different actions form part of an overall plan because their identical object distorts competition within the internal market, the Commission is entitled to impute responsibility for those actions on the basis of participation in the infringement considered as a whole (see, inter alia, judgment of 6 December 2012, Commission v Verhuizingen Coppens, C‑441/11 P, EU:C:2012:778, paragraph 41).

 

The second ground of appeal, alleging that the General Court breached the obligation to state reasons and the principle of equal treatment, as regards the end date of the appellants’ participation in the CPT cartel

 

37  It must be recalled that, in paragraph 163 of the judgment under appeal, the General Court held that, where an undertaking has acted in breach of Article 101 TFEU, it cannot escape being penalised altogether on the ground that another undertaking has not been fined (judgments of 31 March 1993, Ahlström Osakeyhtiö and Others v Commission, C‑89/85, C‑104/85, C‑114/85, C‑116/85, C‑117/85 and C‑125/85 to C‑129/85, EU:C:1993:120, paragraph 197, and 11 July 2013, Team Relocations and Others v Commission, C‑444/11 P, not published, EU:C:2013:464, paragraph 160).

 

38      In doing so, the General Court did not err in law. An undertaking on which a fine has been imposed for its participation in a cartel, in breach of the competition rules, cannot request the annulment or reduction of that fine, on the ground that another participant in the same cartel was not penalised in respect of a part, or all, of its participation in that cartel (see, to that effect, judgment of 16 June 2016, Evonik Degussa and AlzChem v Commission, C‑155/14 P, EU:C:2016:446, paragraphs 58 and 59).

 

The third ground of appeal, alleging an error of law as regards the taking into account of CDT sales to SEC

 

51      It must be recalled that point 13 of the Guidelines on the method of setting fines pursues the objective of adopting as the starting point for the calculation of the fine imposed on an undertaking an amount which reflects the economic significance of the infringement and the size of the undertaking’s contribution to it (judgment of 9 July 2015, InnoLux v Commission, C‑231/14 P, EU:C:2015:451, paragraph 50 and the case-law cited).

 

52      Consequently, the concept of the ‘value of sales’, referred to in point 13 of the Guidelines on the method of setting fines, encompasses the sales made on the market concerned by the infringement in the EEA, and it is not necessary to determine whether those sales were genuinely affected by that infringement (judgment of 9 July 2015, InnoLux v Commission, C‑231/14 P, EU:C:2015:451, paragraph 51 and the case-law cited).

 

55      Furthermore, if the appellants’ argument were accepted, an undertaking participating in an infringement would merely have to negotiate its sales with its customers outside the EEA in order to ensure that those sales would not be taken into account in the calculation of a potential fine, which would therefore be much smaller (see, by analogy, judgment of 27 September 1988, Ahlström Osakeyhtiö and Others v Commission, 89/85, 104/85, 114/85, 116/85, 117/85 and 125/85 to 129/85, EU:C:1988:447, paragraph 16).

 

The fourth ground of appeal, alleging that the General Court erred in law as regards the reduction of the fine under the leniency programme

 

62      Even if the two parts of the ground of appeal were well founded, it must be borne in mind that it is not for the Court of Justice, when ruling on questions of law in the context of an appeal, to substitute, on grounds of fairness, its own assessment for that of the General Court exercising its unlimited jurisdiction to rule on the amount of fines imposed on undertakings for infringements of EU law. Accordingly, only inasmuch as the Court of Justice considers that the level of the fine is not merely inappropriate, but also excessive to the point of being disproportionate, would it have to find that the General Court erred in law, on account of the inappropriateness of the amount of a fine (judgment of 10 July 2014, Telefónica and Telefónica de España v Commission, C‑295/12 P, EU:C:2014:2062, paragraph 205 and the case-law cited).

Intervention
Interim measures
Order 1.      Dismisses the appeal;

2.      Orders Samsung to pay the costs.

Fine changed No
Case duration 16 months
Judge-rapporteur M. Vilaras
Advocate-general M. Szpunar
Notes on academic writings

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Kiran Desai

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Partner, EU Competition Law Leader, EY Law, Brussels

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