The General Court’s annulment of the airfreight cartel decision
We never said a word about the annulment, back in December, of the Commission’s airfreight decision.
I worked on that case before the Commission (for an addressee of the SO later not included in the decision) and shortly before the Judgment went out I was asked by Nicholas Hirst (Politico) whether I thought the decision could be annulled. I confess I didn’t think it was possible, that it was a solid one, not the least because there were 14 leniency applicants. And then the General Court annulled it.
But the real surprise came not with the news, but when reading the Judgment(s). Some people tend to think that a Judgment that quashes a Commission decision must necessarily be a good thing, because after all strict judicial review is a good thing. If you ask me, and to put it mildly, the Judgments don’t make sense (and I bet that a few of the winning lawyers share this view).
The only reason why the decision is annulled is because the Court sees incongruence between the grounds and the dispositive parts. The grounds were –like it or not- clear, and the alleged problem was that when imposing fines –in the operative part- the Commission distinguished, the periods for which it had the power to impose those fines (in the air transport world the Commission’s powers changed over time).
To me, the content of the decision was perfectly clear. How that can be a problem liable of leading to the decision’s annulment is beyond me. In any event, this might not be of much, or any, practical significance, as the Commission can easily amend the supposed error in a new decision. The Commission does get it wrong sometimes (for an example of this, check out my next post on recent State aid cases), but the fact that it got the blow in a case where it might not have deserved it is a bit puzzling.
Other recent relevant cartel cases involve leniency issues (namely the ECJ’s Judgments in DHL and Galp), but we’ll leave that for a future post.
(a) those interested in learning about procedural issues from the finest, funniest and most handsome experts should attend this upcoming module at the Brussels School of Competition 🙂
(b) those interested in cartels law should attend ERA’s upcoming workshop on recent developments;