COMPETITION • EUROPEAN LAW • CIVIL SANCTIONS
The Commission, which acts on behalf of the EU interest, has no competence to indemnify the victims of anticompetitive practices. Where a victim of anticompetitive practices wishes to seek compensation for the harm suffered he/she will have to refer the matter to the national courts. Any person is entitled to claim compensation for the harm caused by a contract or conduct liable to restrict or distort competition where there is a causal link between the harm and the infringing practice, provided that it did not take a significant part in the distortion of competition. The Commission may itself bring an action for damages before the national courts on behalf of EU bodies which are the victims of a price fixing agreement found by the Commission. Compensation must include not only the actual loss but also the loss of profit plus interest.
The question was put before the Court of Justice as to the determination of jurisdiction for damages claims brought by the same applicants against several undertakings established in different Member States as a result of their participation in a single and continuous infringement. The Court found that such actions are so closely connected that it is expedient to hear and determine those applications together to avoid the risk of irreconcilable judgments. The victim may thus choose to bring an action before the court of the place where any one of the participants is domiciled even if this then leads to an out-of-court settlement and the withdrawal of the action against that participant but not the others. It may also bring the case before the courts of the place in which the cartel was concluded or before the courts of the place where its own registered office is located. Where applicable, the court may be bound by a jurisdiction clause in a contract on condition that the clause refers to disputes arising in relation to liability incurred in the event of a infringement of competition law and that the victim has consented to it. That condition is not required in the case of abuse of a dominant position, because unlike unlawful cartels the victims of which cannot foresee that their contracting partner is likely to have coordinated with third parties, the abuse can arise from the contractual relations with the dominant undertaking, so that the application of the clause necessarily arises from the legal relationship in connection with which the agreement was entered into.