El otro blog para cosas más serias

El otro blog para cosas más serias
El otro blog para cosas más serias

viernes, 29 de octubre de 2010

The Increased Level of EU Antitrust Fines, Judicial Review, and the European Convention on Human Rights

Wouter P.J. Wils ha escrito un entretenido trabajo sobre la compatibilidad del procedimiento sancionador europeo en Derecho de la Competencia y los derechos fundamentales de las empresas afectadas. El artículo defiende convincentemente dicha compatibilidad, aunque es triste que “sólo” sea compatible y que no pueda decir que cumple con los más elevados estándares de respeto a los derechos de defensa, lo que sería deseable, sobre todo, por la enorme influencia (y vinculación) que la doctrina de la Comisión y los Tribunales Europeos ejercen sobre las autoridades y los Derechos nacionales. Otros autores han sostenido lo contrario, esto es, que el Derecho de la competencia europeo no cumple con las exigencias del artículo 6 del Convenio Europeo de Derechos Humanos
Siragusa lo ha explicado con brevedad y precisión: la revisión judicial de las decisiones de la Comisión basadas en el art. 230 del Tratado es limitada, la basada en el art. 229 es completa.
In actions for annulment, Community Courts are bound to review the ‘legality’ of EU institutions’ decisions (Article 230 EC) and do not have full jurisdiction on the merits of a case. …. Only if the Commission committed an error may the judge annul the decision, regardless of whether it shares the Commission’s view. Furthermore, if the judge quashes a decision, it is always for the Commission to issue a second, more appropriate decision, if warranted.
The EC model draws heavily from the French model of recours pour excès de pouvoir, which underlies a rigid division of powers between the administration and the judiciary. Indeed, according to well-settled case law (for example, Aalborg Portland, C-204/00; Kali und Salz, C-68/94), competition law confers on the Commission a margin of discretion, particularly with respect to assessments of an economic nature. The Community Courts are only to curb (not to usurp) such discretion, through an effective judicial review and development of the law.
Judicial review by Community Courts is much more intense with respect to Commission decisions imposing fines. There, Community Courts have unlimited jurisdiction on the merits (Article 229 EC) and pursuant to Article 31 of the Modernization regulation may cancel, reduce or even increase fines.
…. However, the effectiveness of this system depends very much upon the degree of self-restraint (or pro-activity) exercised by the judges in their quest for errors. In fact, unlike in the US, EC (and national) judges are not asked to make up their own mind on the facts of a case. As a result, they may end up paying too much deference to the Commission’s (or to the national competition authority’s) reasoning, refusing to quash wrong decisions to the detriment of aggrieved parties.
On the other hand, the EC model of judicial review provides plenty of tools with which to curb possible misuses of the Commission’s discretion. First, according to well-settled case law (for example, Aalborg Portland, C-204/00), the Commission enjoys little or no discretion when it comes to compliance with procedural rules, as well as with the obligation to adequately state reasons and prove the facts of a case (which includes the proper assessment of evidence).
Siragusa otra vez
On the other hand, it is also true that the Court has developed a double standard of judicial review of Commission competition decisions, depending on whether the decision under scrutiny in a particular case entailed “a complex economic assessment”. The formula often used by this Court is the following one: “the Court must undertake a comprehensive review of the examination carried out by the Commission, unless that examination entails a complex economic assessment, in which case review by the Court is confined to ascertaining that there has been no misuse of powers, that the rules on procedure and on the statement of reasons have been complied with, that the facts have been accurately stated and that there has been no manifest error of assessment of those facts” (e.g., Judgment of 27 September 2006, Case T- 168/01, GlaxoSmithKline Services/Commission, paragraph 57). Based on the “manifest error” fact, the review of Commission decisions is thorough and strict with regard to the accuracy of the facts of the case and the correct interpretation and application of the law, but much more deferential to the Commission’s discretion with regard to the application of the law to these facts.
No sé si estoy muy de acuerdo respecto a que sea coherente, por un lado, afirmar que los jueces europeos revisan completamente las decisiones de la Comisión en las que se imponen multas pero, al mismo tiempo, revisan limitadamente “las valoraciones complejas económicamente”. Porque lo suyo es que la cuantía de la multa dependa de la valoración económica de los hechos en muchas ocasiones. Pero hay bastantes sentencias sobre cárteles en las que los tribunales reconocen un amplio margen de apreciación a la Comisión en relación con la determinación de la cuantía de las multas sin más control que su proporcionalidad y carácter disuasorio. De ahí que Siragusa, en el segundo paper citado diga
… the full jurisdiction that this Court enjoys, pursuant to Articles 229 EC
and 31 of Regulation 1/2003, should imply that the CFI recognize no margin of discretion to the Commission not only as far as the working method followed by the Commission in its calculation of the fines imposed in individual cases, but also with regard to the appropriate and proportionate character of the amount of those fines.
Porque, como recuerda Forrester,
This unlimited jurisdiction is not a free-standing remedy allowing the reduction of fines. It can only be exercised in the context of actions for annulment (T-252/03 FNICGV v Commission).
y, más adelante recoge este dictum del Tribunal General
“It is therefore for the Court to verify, when reviewing the legality of the fines imposed by the contested decision, whether the Commission exercised its discretion in accordance with the method set out in the Guidelines and, should it be found to have departed from that method, to verify whether that departure is justified and supported by sufficient legal reasoning. In that regard, it should be noted that the Court of Justice has confirmed the validity, first, of the very principle of the Guidelines, and, secondly, the method which is there indicated. … The self-limitation on the Commission’s discretion arising from the adoption of the Guidelines is not incompatible with the Commission’s maintaining a substantial margin of discretion. The Guidelines display flexibility in a number of ways, enabling the Commission to exercise its discretion in accordance with the provisions of Regulation No 17, as interpreted by the Court of Justice” (Case T-116/04, Wieland-Werke v Commission, Judgment of the Court of First Instance of 6 May 2009).
Aunque este, de la misma sentencia, es todavía peor
2. When assessing the seriousness of an infringement of the competition rules for the purposes of determining the starting amount of the fine to be imposed on an undertaking, the Commission may have regard to the size of the market affected but is not obliged to do so. For that purpose, it may take account of the turnover of the market concerned. There is no valid reason to require that the turnover of a relevant market be calculated excluding certain production costs. There are in all industries costs inherent in the final product which the manufacturer cannot control but which nevertheless constitute an essential element of its business as a whole and which, therefore, cannot be excluded from its turnover when fixing the starting amount of the fine. The fact that the price of a raw material constitutes an important part of the final price of the finished product or that the risk of fluctuations in the price of one raw material is higher than for other raw materials does not invalidate that conclusion.
Y decimos que es peor porque bajo una “plena jurisdicción”, el Tribunal podía haber tenido en cuenta, a efectos del volumen del mercado afectado por el cártel, el “valor” que las empresas expedientadas añadían al producto final – tubos de cobre – y no el precio final del producto. Cosa que, por cierto, acaba de proponerse en Francia- lo que es indicativo de lo razonable de la interpretación.
En efecto, poniéndonos rigurosos, ¿pasaría el control de legalidad penal una norma como el art. 23 del Reglamento 1/2003 que no dice mas que el límite superior es el 10 % del volumen de negocio de la empresa y que la Comisión tendrá en cuenta la gravedad y la duración de la práctica al imponerla? Y esa norma es la que fija la cuantía de las sanciones por infracción dolosa o negligente de unas normas que no dicen mas que “quedan prohibidos los acuerdos restrictivos de la competencia y el abuso de posición dominante” (el legislador español ha incluido una definición de cártel mucho más específica en la Disp. Adic. 4ª LDC. También tiene interés, aunque se ocupa de muchos otros temas este reciente trabajo de Forrester

No hay comentarios:

Archivo del blog