On October 25, 2023, the General Court delivered its judgment in Bulgarian Energy Holding and Others v. Commission.[1]  In a shift in the case law that signals an increased focus on effects in Article 102 cases, the General Court concluded that the Commission failed to establish that the examined conduct constituted a refusal to supply, let alone an abuse of dominance by Bulgarian Energy Holding, Bulgartransgaz, and Bulgargaz (together, “the BEH Group”).  The judgment clarifies the evidentiary standard required to establish causality between purportedly abusive practices and their resulting potential anticompetitive effects.  It also concludes that the Commission infringed the BEH Group’s rights of defense during the administrative procedure.  The judgment signals the General Court’s willingness to scrutinize technical factual assessments that are often heavily contested by companies in competition law investigations.

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 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]