France: The French Competition Authority fines database providers for price fixing and customer allocation

In its decision of April 12 2023, the French Competition Authority (the “Authority”) condemned the price-fixing and market-sharing practices committed over a period of more than 30 years by Bureau van Dijk (“BvD”) and Ellisphere in the sector of the sale of subscriptions to economic intelligence and business information products.

  • A total exemption from fines for BvD under the new leniency procedure

BvD submitted a leniency application in accordance with Article L. 464-2 IV of the French Commercial Code which allows undertakings that have participated in a cartel to disclose its existence and obtain, under certain conditions, the benefit of a total or partial exemption from financial penalty.

In this case, BvD were granted a full exemption from financial penalties.

This is the first implementation of the new leniency procedure resulting from the law of December 3 2020, which simplified the applicable procedure.

  • Non-application of the Notice on Fines for Ellisphere which requested the application of the settlement procedure

It therefore remained for the Authority to sanction the other party to the cartel, which did not benefit from the leniency procedure.

In the case at hand, Ellisphere did not contest the reality of the practices and requested the application of the settlement procedure provided for in Article L. 464-2 III of the French Commercial Code.

Usually, even in a settlement procedure, the penalties are determined by reference to the method set out in the Notice on Fines (with a reduction granted for procedural efficiency).

The specificity in this case is that “in the interest of uniformity in the analysis of the determinants of the penalty and taking into account the particularities of the use of these two procedures" the Authority has chosen not to refer to its Notice on Fines.

The decision of the French Competition Authority is available here (in French)

For more information contact Thomas Oster and Claire Burlin.

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