The Court of First Instance has clarified what entitlement a customer of a cartel has to see the statement of objections which has been issued against the alleged cartelists by the European Commission.
The statement of objections is the document in which the Commission sets out its case against a company under investigation. This case concerned the so called "Lombard Club" cartel, in which eight Austrian banks were found guilty of fixing fees and other conditions for their customers in 2002.
When an Austrian political party demanded to see non-confidential versions of the statement of objections, the Commission granted them access to this information as the political party was a customer of the banks. Some of the banks objected to this, holding that the party did not have a legitimate interest in the case and that it was merely interested in seeing the statement of objections for publicity purposes. In a judgement this month, the CFI confirmed that the political party did indeed have a legitimate interest, being a final customer of the banks.
The court's backing up of the Commission's decision to grant access to these internal documents is in line with the current drive to encourage private enforcement, where communications such as statements of objections will be valuable sources of information to cartel victims.