The EUR 357 million fine imposed by the Commission on Pilkington Group for its participation in the so-called “car glass cart…

The EUR 357 million fine imposed by the Commission on Pilkington Group for its participation in the so-called “car glass cartel” has been confirmed by the European Court of Justice (Judgment of 7 Septem¬ber 2016 in Case C-101/15P Pilkington Group and Others v Commission)

The Court of Justice of the EU (“CJEU”) has upheld the fine imposed by the European Commission on Pilkington group for its participation in the car glass cartel. The Commission decision whereby the fine was imposed had been already confirmed by the General Court of the EU in 2014.

The case concerned a cartel in the car glass sector, where the claimant, the Pilkington group, was one of the main operators in the worldwide market. In 2008, the Commission adopted a decision whereby it found that several companies active in the sector had allocated the supply of car glass so that they maintained their respective positions in the market. It was concluded that the Pilkington group had participated in the cartel from 1998 to 2002, which resulted in a fine of EUR 357 million.

Pilkington brought an action for annulment against the Commission´s decision before the General Court of the EU, which dismissed the action of Pilkington. This judgment was appealed by Pilkington before the CJEU.
The CJEU has now upheld the General Court´s judgment and confirmed the fine imposed by the Commission in 2008.

First, contrary to the argument brought by the claimant, the CJEU has stated that the Commission was entitled to calculate the fine by taking into account the sales registered during the infringement period on the basis of contracts concluded prior to that period. The cartel was aimed to allocate supplies of car glass with regard to any type of contracts, regardless of whether they had been concluded before or after the infringement period.

Second, the CJEU has concluded that the choice made by the Commission, to use the turnover figures for the last full business year preceding the adoption of the decision as the reference value, justifies the use of the exchange rate applicable during that period to convert the reference value, where this is not expressed in euros.

Finally, with regard to the argument that the fine imposed on Pilkington is proportionally higher than the one imposed to other participants due to its activity being less diversified, the CJEU has reached the conclusion that this does not breach the principles of proportionality and equal treatment. In this sense, the CJEU has explained that the Commission may not confer an advantageous treatment on the least diversified undertakings by using criteria that are irrelevant with regard to the infringement´s gravity and duration.