White & Case secures major victory for Bulgarian Energy Holding and subsidiaries before EU's General Court in abuse of dominance case
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Global law firm White & Case LLP has secured a ground-breaking victory for Bulgarian Energy Holding, Bulgargaz and Bulgartransgaz (Applicants) in a landmark judgment from the European Union's General Court (General Court) that fully annuls a 2018 decision by the European Commission (EC), which imposed on the Applicants a €77 million fine for infringing Article 102 the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) by foreclosing the Bulgarian gas supply market.
The EC proceedings against the Applicants began in 2013 following a complaint from Overgas, and a Statement of Objections was issued in 2015. The EC's Decision was adopted in December 2018, following which the Applicants filed an application to the General Court that, due to the magnitude and complexity of the case, took over four years to issue its judgment.
In its judgment, the General Court annulled the EC's decision in full. This is the first time that the General Court has annulled all elements of an EC Article 102 decision primarily on the substance and in particular on grounds that there was no abuse and that the EC wrongly assessed the facts. The Court also found that the EC had infringed the Applicants' rights of defence on multiple grounds, which further cemented the General Court's decision to annul.
The case sets an important precedent for the application of competition law in the energy sector, EU procedural rules and abuse of dominance generally.
The White & Case team representing the Applicants was led by partner of counsel Mark Powell (Brussels, London), partner Assimakis Komninos and counsel Irina Trichkovska and included associates William De Catelle and Henry Gafsen (all Brussels).
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