Alleged price fixing agreement cleared by court


The Swedish Competition Authority (SCA) filed a law suit in the District Court of Stockholm in the autumn of 2004 against the Assistancekåren, a network association of local motor recovery/assistance companies.

The SCA claimed that Assistancekåren had breached the Swedish Competition Act and Article 81 of the Treaty through a decision of the Board in a meeting on 22-23 November 2000, that the Member Companies of the Assistancekåren would raise their prices for 2001 by 6.8%, in accordance with the increase in a transport price index (TPI). The SCA sought to impose a punitive fine of SEK 1 million (∼ €108 000).

Assistancekåren responded, inter alia, that the Member Companies had been raising their prices yearly in line with the TPI for a number of years. Furthermore, the Board decision not to seek a price increase for 2001 in excess of the TPI had not been communicated to the Member Companies.

The Court did not decide whether Article 81 had been breached, finding that the SCA had presented its case in such a manner that the duration of any breach would have been restricted to the time of the Board meeting. The Court, however, was through special legislation only competent to apply Article 81 in matters occurring after 1st January 2001.

The Court also accepted Assistancekårens arguments, stating that the fact that the Member Companies had continued to apply the raise in the TPI in their prices, did not in itself mean that Board’s decision had been circulated or communicated amongst the Member Companies. There was thus no objective intent to restrict the competition in the market. The Court therefore struck out SCA’s claim.

The SCA has appealed the verdict to the Swedish Market Court.

Source: District Court of Stockholm, case nr T 15163-04, September 1st 2006. (Swedish only).