2017-47 Report – Hansa metallwerke AG and Others v European Commission

Court Court of Justice
Date of ruling 26 January 2017
Case name (short version) Hansa Metallwerke AG and Others v European Commission
Case Citation Case C-611/13 P

ECLI:EU:C:2017:47

Key words Appeal — Competition — Agreements, decisions and concerted practices — Bathroom fittings and fixtures markets of Belgium, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Austria — Coordination of selling prices and exchange of sensitive business information — Regulation (EC) No 1/2003 — Article 23(2) — Ceiling of 10% of turnover — Obligation to state reasons — Protection of legitimate expectations
Basic context Hansa Metallwerke AG, Hansa Nederland BV, Hansa Italiana Srl, Hansa Belgium and Hansa Austria GmbH (“Hansa”) against the judgment of the General Court (Fourth Chamber) of 16 September 2013 in Case T-375/10 Hansa Metallwerke and Others v Commission, by which the General Court dismissed the application brought by the appellants for, primarily, partial annulment of Commission Decision C(2010) 4185 final of 23 June 2010 relating to a proceeding under Article 101 TFEU and Article 53 of the EEA Agreement (Case COMP/39.092 – Bathroom fittings and fixtures) and, in the alternative, for a reduction of the fine imposed on them in that decision – Infringement of the principle that the penalty must be specific to the offender and of the principle of legitimate expectations – Inadequate statement of reasons in the General Court’s judgment.
Points arising – admissibility
Points arising – substance  The first ground of appeal, alleging breach of the principle that penalties must be specific to the offender

27    As the General Court correctly noted in paragraph 87 of the judgment under appeal, it is apparent from the settled case-law of the Court of Justice that the fact that, owing to the application of the ceiling of 10% of turnover referred to in the second subparagraph of Article 23(2) of Regulation No 1/2003, certain factors such as the gravity and duration of the infringement are not actually reflected in the amount of the fine imposed is merely a consequence of the application of that upper limit to the final amount (see, in particular, judgments of 28 June 2005, Dansk Rørindustri and Others v Commission, C‑189/02 P, C‑202/02 P, C‑205/02 P to C‑208/02 P and C‑213/02 P, EU:C:2005:408, paragraph 279, and of 12 July 2012, Cetarsav Commission, C‑181/11 P, not published, EU:C:2012:455, paragraph 81).

28      That upper limit seeks to prevent fines being imposed which it is foreseeable that the undertakings, owing to their size, as determined, albeit approximately and imperfectly, by their total turnover, will not be able to pay (judgments of 28 June 2005, Dansk Rørindustri and Others v Commission, C‑189/02 P, C‑202/02 P, C‑205/02 P to C‑208/02 P and C‑213/02 P, EU:C:2005:408, paragraph 280, and of 12 July 2012, Cetarsa v Commission, C‑181/11 P, not published, EU:C:2012:455, paragraph 82).

 

The second ground of appeal, concerning the obligation to state reasons

36      It should be borne in mind that, in accordance with the settled case-law of the Court, the General Court’s obligation to state reasons does not require it to provide an account which follows exhaustively and one by one all the arguments put forward by the parties to the case; the reasoning may therefore be implicit, on condition that it enables the persons concerned to know why the General Court has not upheld their arguments and provides the Court of Justice with sufficient material for it to exercise its power of review (see, to that effect, in particular, judgments of 7 January 2004, Aalborg Portland and Others v Commission, C‑204/00 P, C‑205/00 P, C‑211/00 P, C‑213/00 P, C‑217/00 P and C‑219/00 P, EU:C:2004:6, paragraph 372, and of 9 September 2008, FIAMM and Others v Council and Commission, C‑120/06 P and C‑121/06 P, EU:C:2008:476, paragraph 96).

37      In particular, the obligation to state the reasons for its judgments does not in principle extend to requiring the General Court to justify the approach taken in one case as against that taken in another case before it, or, still less, as against a decision taken by the Commission in another case (see, to that effect, judgment of 11 July 2013, Team Relocations and Others v Commission, C‑444/11 P, not published, EU:C:2013:464, paragraph 66, and order of 4 September 2014, Metropolis Inmobiliarias y Restauraciones v OHIM, C‑509/13 P, not published, EU:C:2014:2173, paragraph 51).

The third ground of appeal, alleging breach of the principle of the protection of legitimate expectations

45      In so far as the arguments raised by the appellants relate, in particular, to paragraph 115 of the judgment under appeal, concerning the lack of authorisation of the Commission’s agents or services concerned to give such assurances, it is sufficient to note that that paragraph is, in any event, included for the sake of completeness, and that those arguments are not, therefore, capable of leading to the judgment under appeal being set aside.

46      The third ground of appeal must, therefore, be rejected as ineffective.

Intervention
Interim measures
Order 1.      Dismisses the appeal;

2.      Orders Hansa to pay the costs

Fine changed No
Case duration 37 months
Judge-rapporteur S. Rodin
Advocate-general M. Wathelet
Notes on academic writings

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