On October 25, 2019, the Paris Court of Appeals ordered Renault Trucks to disclose the Commission’s statement of objections (“SO”) and its annexes in a follow-on damages action arising from the Trucks cartel.
On July 19, 2016, the European Commission imposed fines of nearly €3 billion on five truck manufacturers, including Renault Trucks, for having colluded on truck pricing and agreeing on passing on costs resulting from stricter emissions rules from 1997 to 2011. Four companies, including Renault Trucks, benefited from fine reductions under the leniency program.
Following the Commission’s decision, Eiffage Infrastructure (“Eiffage”) sought damages from Renault Trucks. In this context, it asked Renault Trucks to disclose a number of documents it considered relevant to evaluate the damages, including (i) the Commission’s SO and its annexes, (ii) Renault Trucks’ gross prices, costs and margins between 1997 and 2013, and (iii) documents that Renault Trucks submitted to the Commission under the leniency procedure. Renault Trucks refused, and Eiffage brought interim proceedings to force disclosure. In first instance, the Lyon Commercial Court dismissed Eiffage’s request on the ground that Renault Trucks had raised arguments showing that “the claim could be seriously contested”. Eiffage appealed.
On appeal, the Paris Court of Appeals ordered disclosure of the SO and annexes but rejected Eiffage’s other requests. The Court recalled that the effective implementation of cartel victims’ right to compensation must be reconciled with leniency applicants’ right to confidentiality and, more broadly, the effectiveness of the leniency program. Accordingly, the Court ordered Renault Trucks to disclose the SO and its annexes, considering that such disclosure would allow Eiffage to collect the information needed to support its damages claim, and that Renault Trucks had failed to demonstrate how it could be harmful. By contrast, the Court considered that disclosing gross prices, costs and margins would be disproportionate as it would harm Renault Trucks’ business secrets and future negotiations, and that disclosing documents submitted under the leniency program would be disproportionate as it would hinder the effectiveness of the leniency program.
With this judgment, the Court reaffirmed that companies filing for leniency should not be disadvantaged compared to cases in which they did not cooperate, including in damages actions.