Chillin'Competition

Relaxing whilst doing Competition Law is not an Oxymoron

Ménage à trois (part II; José Luis Buendía): Case T-169/08 PPC v Commission (… and Jules v Jim)

with one comment

For this second part of our first ménage à trois discussion we are proud to present you with José Luis Buendía’s view of the Greek Lignite  Judgment in response to Marixenia Davilla’s earlier post. Aside from being the head of Garrigues’ Brussels office -where I happen to work-, José Luis is widely regarded as “Mr Article 106″.  He also masters the art of illustrating all hiw views with metaphores and parables. Continue reading and you’ll see what we mean…. 

[For a contrarian view of José Luis' arguments check our Makis Komninos post (which we will publish here tomorrow)].

It is a real pleasure to be invited to contribute to this blog. This is even more the case given the topic, the format, and the identity of my nice and learned counterparts – Marixenia and Assimakis. Even if I don’t share their enthusiasm about this judgment, it is clear that they have done an excellent job as lawyers. So, congratulations to them and to their colleagues who worked om the case.

Contrary to them, despite having been in the past an EC official, I have not had any involvement in this particular case. I am nevertheless very interested in it, since I am working on a new edition of my book on Article 106. Moreover as I have explained in a recent article, unfortunately there are not so many Article 106 cases to comment.  So I am glad to have this opportunity.

This case made me think of François Truffaut’s film Jules et Jim about a genuine ménage à trois. The Catherine of the movie (Jeanne Moureau) had – simultaneously – a husband and a lover. As Marixenia rightly implies in her interesting comment, Article 106 also has simultaneous links with State aid on the one hand and with antitrust on the other hand. In my view the problem with the judgment is to assume that Article 106 is only married with antitrust and faithful to it. It is not. Article 106 is about State measures and is therefore essentially different from antitrust.

It is for this reason that, in my opinion, this judgment is not really consistent with the previous case law that it claims to be following. Indeed, previous judgments, like RTT, considered that the mere granting of an exclusive right to a public undertaking previously enjoying a dominant position was in itself contrary to Article 106 combined with Article 102 TFEU. This conclusion was based on the effects of the State measure creating the extension of a dominant position from one market to another one (effects that were similar to those of an abuse). The said conclusion did not require any actual abusive behavior.

In today’s judgment the General Court reads the previous case law in a different manner and finds that it does require the existence of an abusive behavior, at least a potential one. Since the EC decision did allegedly not established the abuse but relied only on the effects, it was according to the Court in breach of the Treaty. This reasoning seems to me clearly contradictory with the case law.

This reasoning seems also a little bit abstract. Indeed, the judgment itself concedes that the mere possibility of a future potential abuse would have been enough to satisfy the legal test. However, since according with the judgment, the decision did not explore this issue in an explicit manner, it had to annul it. It seems however obvious to me that a State measure extending the dominant position from one market to a neighbor one has, at the very least, the potential to lead to abusive behaviors. So, the Court seems to say that it is only the lack of an explicit reference to this obvious consequence that leads to the annulment.

I assume that the Commission may appeal the judgment before the Court of Justice in order to clarify the application of Article 106 with regard to special or exclusive rights. I also think that in the future the Commission should be more active and more coherent in the application of this provision.

In any event, I also know that my Greek friends would have a view different from mine, so I really look forward to the continuation of the debate.

About these ads

Written by Alfonso Lamadrid

26 November 2012 at 6:28 pm

One Response

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. [...] our inaugural ménage à trois discussion on the Greek lignite Judgment features  (see part I and part II ) another good friend of this blog: Assimakis Komninos. Makis is a great guy, a partner at White [...]


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,055 other followers

%d bloggers like this: