France competition law: What happened in 2019 and significant events in 2020
Higher antitrust enforcement in 2019
The French Competition Authority (“FCA”) imposed major cartel and abuse of dominance fines in the last week of December and finalised small-scale investigations it had in the pipeline throughout the year (total amount of fines for 2019 was €631 million versus €213 million in 2018).
The FCA imposed major fines for cartel behaviour on:
- Meal voucher issuers for information sharing and erecting barriers to entry and expansion (€415 million, December).
- Fruit purée makers for price fixing and customer allocation practice (€58 million, December).
The FCA also imposed a fine on Google for abuse of dominant position on the grounds that Google Ads’ operating rules imposed on advertisers were established and applied under non-objective, non-transparent and discriminatory conditions (€150 million, December). The FCA also ordered Google to amend the relevant conditions.
Among the smaller-scale cartel and vertical restraint cases, the FCA pursued:
- Customer allocation practices by road transport companies (€3.8 million, October) and wholesalers of bakery equipment (€1.7 million, July).
- Exclusivity clauses in distribution agreements in overseas territories (€225,000, May; €176,000, October); resale price maintenance in the liquid fertilisers sector (€24,000, July); and bans on online sales in the bike sector (€250,000, July).
The FCA also fined regulated professions for illegitimate concerted pricing policies (notary public, €295,000, June; architects, €1.5 million, October) and for restricting access to the market (bailiffs, €120,000, June; taxis, €75,000, March).