2. Specific lessons of the decision regarding the Polynesian Competition Authority
This decision is yet another setback for the President of the APC, who has already been involved in several cases.
On October 16, 2019, the Paris Court of Appeal already suspended the decision by the APC to sentence the companies concerned on the merits because of the President’s potential lack of impartiality. The Court of Appeal considered that the grievances made to the President of the APC meant that the ruling entailed a serious risk of being annulled on the basis of the lack of impartiality of the board due to the behavior of its President (Paris, Pôle 5, ch. 15, Oct. 16, 2019, No. 19/15773; L’actu concurrence no. 114/2019 of Oct. 16, 2019; Rev. Lamy Concurrence, Dec. 2019, 6; Contr. Conc. Consom. Dec. 2019, 206, obs. G. Decocq; E. Dieny, Procédure: quand l’Autorité polynésienne de la concurrence se fait taper sur les doigts par la cour d’appel de Paris, L’Essentiel du droit de la distribution et de la concurrence, Jan. 2010; F. Venayre, Première decision de sanction de l’Autorité polynésienne de la concurrence: du Titan au Titanic, Dalloz Actualité, Nov. 6, 2019). The decision issued on the merits had already been severely criticized by the legal scholars (L. Donnedieu de Vabres et F. Vever, Première décision contentieuse de l’Autorité polynésienne de la concurrence: une analyse réfrigérante, Dalloz Actualité; E. Eréséo, La lettre de la distribution, oct. 2019, pp. 1-2).
On November 26, 2019, the President of the APC was disavowed by his own board, which issued a non-suit decision concerning an alleged cartel in the context of a public contract in the surveillance and guarding sector, in particular because of the lack of impartiality due to the interference of its president in the investigation, whereas the investigation and judgment functions must be separated (APC, Dec. No. 2019-PAC-02, Nov. 26, 2019; F. Venayre, L’Autorité polynésienne de la concurrence prononce un non-lieu pour défaut d’impartialité dans l’affaire du gardiennage, Dalloz Actualité 2019; L’actu-concurrence, n° 131/2019, Mettant au jour de graves dysfonctionnements au sein de l’institution affectant son impartialité, au point de vicier irrémédiablement la procédure, le nouveau collège de l’Autorité polynésienne de la concurrence rend une décision de non-lieu dans l’affaire du gardiennage; D. Schmitt, Non-lieu dans l’affaire du gardiennage : le Collège de l’APC désavoue son Président !, Tahiti Pacifique, n° 422): the new board of the APC had indeed noted that the investigation services had asked the Board and the President for instructions during the investigation on the direction to be given to the prosecution procedure, and the President had then actively and insistently interfered in the investigation, which is strictly forbidden.
Lastly, according to the local press, a compulsory resignation procedure was initiated against the President of the APC by the Board and gave rise to a hearing on June 8, 2020 (La Dépêche de Tahiti, June 2,2020; Tahiti Infos, July 4, 2020).
An order of the First President of the Paris Court of Appeal now recognizes that the behavior of the President of the Polynesian Competition Authority is such as to impair the impartiality, or at least the appearance of impartiality, of the APC as a whole and refers the case to the Autorité de la concurrence in Paris.
This series of decisions undoubtedly reflects a deficiency of the APC under its current President.