French competition law: What happened in 2020 and significant events in 2021
Highest ever antitrust fine imposed in 2020
The French Competition Authority (“FCA”) imposed major cartel and abuse of dominance fines (total amount of fines was €1.8 billion versus €632 million in 2019).
The FCA imposed major fines on:
- Apple and its wholesalers, Ingram and Tech Data, for anticompetitive agreement within Apple distribution network and Apple for abuse of economic dependency (a specific French provision of the French Commercial Code), thereby imposing its highest individual and collective fines ever (€1.2 billion, of which €1.1 billion against Apple, March).
- Ham and cold meat producers for coordinating the purchase of cuts of ham from slaughterhouses at lower prices and the fixing of price increases on cold meat products (€93 million, July).
Among the smaller-scale cartel and vertical restraint cases the FCA sanctioned inter alia:
- Collective boycott practices against a healthcare network implemented by the council of dental surgeons and two trade union federations (€4 million, November).
- Three Alsace wine professional organisations for price fixing of grapes and for sharing price recommendations for bulk wine to its members (€376,000, September).
- A tea producer for imposing online resale prices on its retailers (€226,000, December).
Another significant highlight has been the shift of the FCA cartel decisional practice which previously prohibited subsidiaries from the same group from coordinating with each other in the event they were submitting distinct bids in the context of public tenders. The FCA aligned its case law with the 2018 Ecoservice projektai judgment of the European Court of Justice (November).
The FCA also had an important and rather unusual activity in terms of abuse of dominance. In particular, it heavily fined Novartis, Roche and Genentech for collectively abusing their dominant position by disparaging Avastin medicine and disseminating an alarmist and misleading speech before public authorities. Similar to the economic dependency theory used against Apple, the FCA did not hesitate to base its decision on a rare theory of harm (€444 million, September).