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Compagnie Maritime Belge Transports SA v. Commission

1996 E.C.R. II-1201 (CFI) (1996)

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Compagnie Maritime Belge Transports SA v. Commission

European Union Court of Justice

1996 E.C.R. II-1201 (CFI) (1996)

Facts

Compagnie Maritime Belge Transports SA (Compagnie) (defendant) belonged to a shipping conference called Cewal along with several other shipping companies. Cewal operated in the North Sea and held a dominant position in the shipping market. Cewal’s main competitor was a company called G&C. The European Commission (the commission) (plaintiff) found that Compagnie violated its dominant position and Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) by coordinating with other Cewal members to change their freight rates to rates equal to or lower than those charged by G&C’s ships sailing around the same time, a practice known as creating fighting ships. Internal Cewal documents reflected that its members discussed using fighting ships to get rid of competition. The commission cited three factors supporting its finding. First, Compagnie and Cewal selected their fighting ships by choosing vessels scheduled to sail around the same time as G&C’s ships, thus competing with them directly. Second, Cewal’s members jointly fixed their fighting ships’ rates so that they were the same or lower than G&C’s. Third, Cewal’s earnings decreased as a result of these actions. Cewal did not dispute that it created fighting ships but argued that the practice constituted legitimate competition and that G&C had gained market share, meaning the fighting ships had no anticompetitive effect. Compagnie appealed the commission’s finding.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning

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