(Reference for a preliminary ruling — Competition — Article 82 EC — Abuse of a dominant position — Regulation (EC) No 1/2003 — Article 3(1) — Application of national competition law — Decision of a national competition authority to impose one fine on the basis of national law and another on the basis of EU law — Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union — Article 50 — Principle of ne bis in idem — Whether applicable)
SOURCE: Court of Justice of European Union, Annual Report 2019
In the judgment in Powszechny Zakład Ubezpieczeń na Życie delivered on 3 April 2019, the Court ruled, in essence, on the interpretation of the principle ne bis in idem enshrined in Article 50 of the Charter. The request was made in proceedings between Powszechny Zakład Ubezpieczeń na Życie S.A., an insurance company, on the one hand, and the Polish competition authority, on the other, concerning a decision of the latter to fine the former for an abuse of a dominant position on the basis of infringements of national and EU competition law.
In that context, the Court held that the principle ne bis in idem does not preclude a national competition authority from fining an undertaking in a single decision for an infringement of national competition law and for an infringement of Article 82 EC (now Article 102 TFEU). In such a situation, the national competition authority must nevertheless ensure that, taken together, the fines are proportionate to the nature of the infringement.
The Court stated that it followed from its case-law that that principle aims to prevent an undertaking from being found liable or proceedings being brought against it afresh, which assumes that that undertaking was found liable or declared not liable by an earlier decision that can no longer be challenged.
Consequently, the Court held that the principle ne bis in idem should not apply to a situation in which the national competition authority applies, in accordance with Article 3(1) of Regulation No 1/2003, national competition law and EU competition rules in parallel and, under Article 5 of that regulation, fines an undertaking in a single decision for an infringement of that law and for disregarding those rules.