Competition: The ECJ examines the question of legal standing in competition cases in Kruidvat v Commission, 1998.

United Kingdom
In 1990, Givenchy, a producer of luxury cosmetics, notified the Commission of a network of selective distribution contracts. During the administrative procedure under Regulation 17, the Commission received comments on Givenchy’s distribution system from the Council for the Multiple and Department Stores sector. Kruidvat was a member of the Council. On 3 July 1992, Givenchy’s exclusive agent in Belgium requested a Belgian court to order Kruidvat to discontinue the sale of Givenchy products in Belgium. In defending those proceedings, Kruidvat submitted that Givenchy’s distribution network infringed the EC competition rules.

Kruidvat then brought an action in the Court of First Instance claiming that Givenchy’s selective distribution network infringed EC competition law. The Commission nevertheless went on to exempt Givenchy’s network under Article 85(3) of the Treaty, a decision which Kruidvat tried to annul. Its action for annulment was dismissed by the Court of First Instance as inadmissible on the grounds that it lacked direct and individual concern in the Commisison’s decision. This ruling was appealed to the ECJ.

In its judgment, the ECJ has confirmed the original findings in the CFI ruling by holding that the link between the participation of the Council in the administrative procedure under Regulation 17, and the individual situation of Kruidvat, was not sufficient for the latter to be individually distinguished in the context of an individual decision granting exemption under Article 85(3) of the Treaty. The Court’s case law did not show that the existence of national court proceedings challenging a decision is sufficient for an action for annulment of the decision to be admissible.

(Kruidvat v. Commission, Case C-70/97P, Judgement of 17 November 1998)