EU Court Prevents Publication of Confidential Information by European Commission

The General Court of the European Union has granted an interim injunction preventing the European Commission from revealing confidential information about participants in a cartel. The judgment relates to the intended re-publication by the EC of its 2008 car glass cartel decision with previously redacted confidential information on sales, prices and customers now to be disclosed.

The EC first published a non-confidential version of its decision in 2010 and in 2011 announced its intention to publish a further non-confidential version revealing previously confidential information. Pilkington Glass Ltd, an addressee of the EC‘s infringement decision, challenged the EC claiming that the disclosure may seriously and irreparably harm fundamental rights by revealing business secrets and identifying individuals involved in the cartel. Following rejection of its arguments by the Hearing Officer, Pilkington appealed the decision before the General Court in October 2012 and applied to have publication of the confidential information suspended in the interim.

The court partially upheld the interim application and ordered that while the main appeal is pending, information that could identify individual customers (e.g., names or product descriptions) and also details about Pilkington’s pricing calculations must not be published by the EC. Information revealing the individual participants in the cartel is not subject to the order. The court is still to come to a decision on the main appeal. Should the EC be allowed to re-publish decisions showing confidential information, it will potentially provide ammunition for claimants bringing private damages actions on the back of the EC’s infringement decision.