The Bucharest Court of Appeal, in a first instance judgment, annulled the Competition Council’s Decision No 68/2020 in so far as it concerns the fine imposed on a leading Romanian financial leasing company.
By this decision, the Competition Council had imposed a fine on the plaintiff, 15 other leasing companies and the Romanian Association of Financial Companies, following an investigation into the financial leasing market. The majority of the sanctioned companies challenged the legality of the decision and sought its annulment through individual administrative proceedings.
The plaintiff’s action for annulment of the sanction imposed by the Competition Council was based on a challenge to the substantive analysis carried out by the Competition Council in order to demonstrate that the subject matter of the sanctioned conduct did not concern elements for which the Court of Justice of the European Union, in its case-law, allows the application of such sanctions in competition matters. The purpose of the action was to demonstrate that the Competition Authority had infringed the substantive and procedural rules on the taking of evidence, which had a decisive influence on the fulfilment of the standard of proof in competition matters and on the concrete proof of the sanctioned conduct.
The judgment of the Court of Appeal, which is entirely in favour of the plaintiff, is particularly important because it outlines the approach of administrative courts to decisions of the Competition Council adopted without the support of evidence proving beyond reasonable doubt the existence of the act and its gravity, in the light of established European practice. The court’s decision is also a confirmation of the importance of concrete and effective access to justice, also in cases between private litigants and the authorities, which gives confidence in the functioning of the rule of law in Romania.
Filip & Company assisted the client from the investigation stage through an interdisciplinary team coordinated by Cristina Filip, Partner. The team of lawyers that assisted the leasing company before the Court of Appeal included Alin Grapă, Senior Associate, who co-ordinated the litigation team on this case, and Roxana Roșca, Associate, who supported and co-ordinated the competition team’s efforts on the case.