On 18 January 2010, the French Competition Authority (the
'Authority') issued a decision fining the three main port
handling companies of the Reunion Island for agreeing on the prices
of their services.
This anticompetitive agreement was in force for a particularly
long period of time, i.e. from 1987 to 2002, and has been
continuously implemented by the three port handling companies.
The Authority recognized that such a long-term price fixing
agreement between competitors on an oligopolistic
market with limited competition is usually
qualified as very harmful but it imposed only symbolic fines
(between € 20,000 and € 25,000).
The Authority took into consideration two mitigating
Firstly, the legal framework applicable to port handling prices
was uncertain at the time when the anticompetitive agreement was in
force. Prices in the French port handling market were supposed to
be liberalised after the adoption of the Ordinance of 1 December
1986 but a 1988 decree set an exception to the port handling sector
in the Reunion Island, without however indicating how the prices in
that sector should be determined. Furthermore, the French
administration maintained an ambiguous attitude, as it did know
about the companies' practice.
Secondly, the Authority took into account the small size of the
market in question.
The method followed by the Authority to set the financial
penalty in this case slightly differs from the method set in its
draft guidelines for setting antitrust fines published on 17
January 2011 (see Community Week,
issue 505). This confirms the need for the Authority to
establish clear guidelines when it comes to calculating fines.
To view Community Week, Issue 505; 21st January 2011
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