04 June 2015

Paris Court of Appeal partially reverses the FCA’s decision on historical monuments’ restoration

On 26 January 2011, the French Competition Authority (the FCA) sanctioned fifteen companies a total amount of €10 million for sharing public markets for the restoration of historical monuments at a regional level.

The fines imposed were reduced by the Paris Court of Appeal on 11 October 2012.  On 18 February 2014, the French Supreme Court annulled the appeal judgment regarding two fines: the €536 000 fine imposed on Degaine and the €4 million fine imposed on Pradeau and Morin. On 28 May 2015, the Paris Court of Appeal (the Court), following the 2014 Supreme Court reasoning, partially reversed the FCA’s 2011 decision.

Regarding the FCA’s reasoning that higher fines should be imposed on the companies because they belonged to powerful groups, the Court decided that the objective of ensuring a dissuasive and proportionate fine was insufficient on its own. In this regard, the Court noted that only this circumstance had led the FCA to automatically increase the fines for the sole fact of belonging to a powerful group.

Consequently, the Court also invalidated the FCA’s decision to refuse to take into account the special financial difficulties of Degaine which affected its ability to pay, despite the fact that Degaine belonged to a group (Vinci) which achieved a significant turnover. The Court noted that the FCA had failed to demonstrate that belonging to the powerful group influenced Degaine’s anticompetitive behaviour.

Finally, the Court corrected the basis used to determine the fine because the FCA had departed from its usual practice, due to lack of supporting documents given by most of the parties. However, Pradeau and Morin had given such documents, and the FCA should have taken them into account.

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