On October 26, 2023, the European Court of Justice issued a preliminary ruling in EDP – Energias de Portugal and Others,[1] upon request from the Lisbon Court of Appeals, which had asked for clarification on how to assess non-compete clauses under Article 101(1) and (3) TFEU and whether these could constitute “by object” restrictions.  The Court of Justice clarified the standard of assessment of such non-compete clauses, confirming that they can be categorized as restrictions by object if they display a sufficient degree of harm to competition.

On October 19, 2023, the Commission imposed fines totalling €13.4 million on five pharmaceutical companies (Alkaloids of Australia, Alkaloids Corporation, Boehringer, Linnea, and Transo-Pharm) for their participation in a cartel in relation to an active pharmaceutical ingredient.[1]  This is the Commission’s first-ever cartel decision in the pharmaceutical sector, adding to the Commission’s extensive enforcement action against pharmaceutical companies.

On October 18, 2023, the General Court delivered its judgment in Clariant v. Commission.[1]  It upheld the Commission’s settlement decision in the Ethylene case,[2] following an appeal by Clariant, who argued that the Commission erred in: (i) applying a 50% recidivism multiplier to Clariant in circumstances where the previous infringement in which it had participated was not a purchasing cartel, but rather a sales cartel; and (ii) applying a 10% fine increase (to all participants) on account of the infringement being a purchasing cartel, to ensure adequate deterrence.  The General Court also rejected a counterclaim lodged by the Commission, in which the Commission sought to increase the fine imposed on Clariant by removing its 10% settlement discount, on the basis that Clariant had accepted to be fined in the context of settlement proceedings.

On October 18, 2023, the General Court dismissed[1] the appeals of Teva Pharmaceutical Industries Ltd (“Teva”) and Cephalon Inc. (“Cephalon”) against the Commission’s decision imposing a €60.5 million fine on both pharmaceutical companies for pay-for-delay agreements.[2]  The General Court confirmed the Commission’s conclusion that Teva and Cephalon’s patent settlement agreement was aimed at preventing Teva from entering the market with its generic modafinil drug, and therefore restricted competition by object and by effect.

On October 5, 2023, Advocate General Rantos delivered his opinion on two questions referred to the Court of Justice by the Portuguese Competition, Regulation and Supervision Court (the “referring court”).[1]  The referring court seeks clarification on whether a ‘standalone’[2] exchange of information between competitors can be classified as a restriction by object under Article 101 TFEU, and whether that classification is permitted where it has not been possible to establish any uncertain or procompetitive effect on competition resulting from the exchange.  The case gives the Court of Justice an opportunity to clarify its recent evolution from a broad and formalistic interpretation of the concept of a restriction by object to a narrower, more  pragmatic interpretation of that concept.[3]