On 17 June 2010, the French court of appeal (the "Court") invalidated a judicial warrant issued to the French Competition Authority (the "Authority") authorising dawn raids at the premises of Amaury, a media group publishing sport newspapers. Amaury was suspected of abusing its dominant position on the sport newspapers market, notably because it launched a daily sport newspaper very similar to one recently launched by one of its competitors.
This judicial warrant had been granted to the Authority on the basis of an array of factors indicating that Amaury's behaviour was potentially restricting competition.
Following the dawn raids, Amaury applied to the Court asking for the warrant to be annuled.
In invalidating the warrant, the Court considered that the level of presumption necessary to authorise dawn raids of press companies should be higher than for other companies in consideration of the principles of freedom of the press and protection of sources.
The Court also indicated that in this case the evidence of anticompetitive behaviour was insufficient to establish public interest in granting a dawn raid warrant. Finally, the Court stated that the restriction to the freedom of the press principles was not proportionate and justified.
In addition, the Court considered the launch of a new sport newspaper by Amaury could have pro competitive effects.
As a result, the Court stated that (i) the warrant was invalid and (ii) the seized documents had to be returned to Amaury.
The Authority has already announced that it will appeal the Court's decision.
To view Community Week, Issue 477, 25 June 2010 in full, click here.
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