The French Competition Authority issues guidance on Antitrust Fines

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On 17 May 2011, the Autorité de la concurrence, the French competition authority (the Autorité), unveiled its guidelines (the Communiqué) relating to the setting of financial penalties in antitrust cases. The Communiqué promised to herald a new, more sophisticated approach to competition law fines; but the final draft, in many important respects, is rather disappointing as it is largely in line with the European Commission’s 2006 guidelines. That said, there are still many features that differentiate the French approach from the current European model.

Previously, there were no such guidelines in France. However, the Paris Court of Appeal, in a judgment issued on 18 January 2010, criticized the Autorité for the legal uncertainty in the way in which fines are calculated, and the subsequent lack of predictability for companies that are sanctioned.

In response to these criticisms, the Communiqué sets out the various steps to be followed by the Autorité when setting a fine...

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