The European Commission has published some interesting statistics about the cartel infringement decisions it has made over the past number of years. The general trajectory of fines over the past 15 years has been one of a steep increase in penalties handed down to cartelists. One investigation, into the market for TV and computer monitor tubes, alone led to around €1.4 billion of fines. This data is important to companies interested in making private competition law damages claims as one element of quantifying the fine handed down to cartelists is how much money the European Commission believes they made from their illegal activities. In other words, high European Commission fines on cartelists suggest the potential for large private claims against the cartelists involved. Parties should remember that they will generally have a number of years to make a claim after they know about a cartel they were affected by, so infringement decisions from past years can still provide the basis for a good claim.
Another interesting point from the Commission data is that the overall total of fines for 2015 was lower than in previous years. Is this a sign that the Commission is going soft on cartels? This appears unlikely. It is probably a reflection of the fact that in recent years the Commission has investigated larger, more complex cases (e.g. Libor and other exchange rates) and non-classic cartel cases (e.g. pharma cases).
If you think your business may have been affected by a competition law infringement and you would like to discuss a potential claim with us, or if you would like to be notified of competition law infringements affecting your business sector, please contact a member of our competition litigation team.