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CJEU dismisses majority of appeals in bathroom fixtures cartel case

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has dismissed the majority of appeals brought by companies that participated in a cartel in the bathroom fixtures and fitting market between 1992 and 2004, and referred others back to the EU's General Court.30 Jan 2017

In 2010 the European Commission imposed fines worth more than €622 million on 17 bathroom equipment manufacturers for their participation in the cartel. The organisations had taken part in regular anticompetitive meetings over that period, the Commission said, and it found that the coordination of annual price increases and other aspects of pricing, plus the disclosure and exchange of sensitive business information, amounted to a cartel.

A number of the companies involved appealed to the General Court, which in 2013 partly annulled the Commission's decision for some of the companies and reduced the fines imposed in some cases.

The CJEU, Europe's highest court, dismissed the appeals brought by the following companies: Aloys F. Dornbracht, Duravit BeLux and the Duravit companies in Germany and France, Hansa Metallwerke, Hansa Nederland, Hansa Italiana, Hansa Belgium, Hansa Austria, Masco, Hansgrohe Deutschland Vertriebs, Hansgrohe Handelsgesellschaft, the Hansgrohe companies in Germany, Belgium, France, Italy and the Netherlands, Hüppe Belgium and the Hüppe companies in Austria, Belgium and the Netherlands, Zucchetti Rubinetteria, Mamoli Robinetteria, Villeroy & Boch Austria, Roca Sanitario, Roca, Villeroy & Boch Belgium and the Villeroy & Boch companies in France and Germany. In certain of those cases, however, the Court considered that the reasoning of the General Court contains errors of law, and changed some grounds of the judgments.  

The CJEU referred the cases for Keramag Keramische Werke GmbH, formerly Keramag Keramische Werke AG, Koralle Sanitärprodukte, Koninklijke Sphinx, Allia, Produits Céramiques de Touraine, Pozzi Ginori and Sanitec Europe back to the General Court, saying that that court had infringed the obligation to state reasons and the rules applicable to the taking and appraisal of evidence, and made errors of law in other aspects it its decision.

The judgment regarding Laufen Austra was also referred back to the General Court to have its fine reassessed as it had been wrongly calculated in terms of when a subsidiary can be held responsible for an infringement.