European Court Rejects Appeal Challenging the Commission’s Dawn Raid Powers

On June 25, 2014, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) dismissed a challenge brought against the European Commission (Commission) by the French cable manufacturer Nexans SA in which it sought to challenge the Commission’s powers to seize documents in dawn raids.

In January 2009, the Commission launched dawn raids at the premises of Nexans France in relation to its potential participation in a suspected cartel in the market for high-voltage cables. The documents inspected during the Commission’s raid included business records that concerned projects outside EU markets.

Nexans challenged the inspection decision, and its appeal was partially upheld by the General Court in 2012. The General Court found that the Commission did not have reasonable grounds to seize documents in relation to products other than high-voltage underwater and underground electric cables and associated materials. However, the Commission decision with regard to the geographical scope of its powers was upheld by the General Court.

Nexans, in its appeal against the General Court’s decision to the CJEU, argued that the Commission did not have the power to seize documents relating to activities outside the EU and that its decision to inspect was overly broad in its geographic scope and failed to provide a sufficiently precise basis for the inspection.

The CJEU rejected the appeal in its entirety and stated that, “taking account of Commission’s suspicions concerning an infringement, which probably had a global reach … even documents linked to projects located outside the common market were likely to provide relevant information on the suspected infringement.”

The full CJEU decision is available here.