Blowing Hot and Cold: The last word of the Spanish Supreme Court on Setting Fines for Competition Law Infringements

On January 29 2015 the Spanish Supreme Court issued an opinion clarifying the limits faced by Spanish competition authorities in imposing economic penalties for infringements of competition law and the criteria that guide the calculation of the amount of fines. This judgment is of paramount importance for the effectiveness of public enforcement actions by administrative authorities in Spain and it will force them to change the methods and steps followed in figuring the amount of fines. Though Supreme Court’s holdings in the case move away from EU Law, it will surely have a positive impact in deterrence by pushing the amount of fines upwards through the clarification of the relevant turnover that should be used in calculating the limit to the fine (‘total turnover’ instead of ‘turnover in the market affected by the infringement’). Nevertheless, the Supreme Court annuls the Guidelines that Spanish competition authorities have been using in the last four years in quantifying the amount of fines, leaving little room for new Guidelines to be adopted, and making more difficult to predict their amount in the future.

Working Paper IE Law School AJ8-220-I 19-02-2015