Article 50 - Right not to be tried or punished twice in criminal proceedings for the same criminal offence
Key facts of the case:
Request for a preliminary ruling from the Najvyšší súd Slovenskej republiky.
Reference for a preliminary ruling – Competition – Article 102 TFEU – Abuse of a dominant position – Division of competences between the European Commission and the national competition authorities – Regulation (EC) No 1/2003 – Article 11(6) – National competition authorities relieved of their competence – Principle ne bis in idem – Article 50 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union.
Outcome of the case:
On those grounds, the Court (Eighth Chamber) hereby rules:
1) This request for a preliminary ruling concerns the interpretation of the first sentence of Article 11(6) of Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2003 of 16 December 2002 on the implementation of the rules on competition laid down in Articles [101 and 102 TFEU] (OJ 2003 L 1, p. 1) and of Article 50 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union (‘the Charter’).
19) In those circumstances the Najvyšší súd Slovenskej republiky (Supreme Court of the Slovak Republic) decided to stay the proceedings and to refer the following questions to the Court of Justice for a preliminary ruling:
39) By its second question, the referring court asks, in essence, whether the principle ne bis in idem, as enshrined in Article 50 of the Charter, must be interpreted as meaning that it applies to infringements of competition law, such as the abuse of a dominant position referred to in Article 102 TFEU, where those infringements are sanctioned separately and independently by the Commission and by a competition authority of a Member State in the exercise of their competences under Article 11(6) of Regulation No 1/2003.
40) In that regard, it should be recalled that the principle ne bis in idem is a fundamental principle of EU law (judgment of 15 October 2002, Limburgse Vinyl Maatschappij and Others v Commission, C‑238/99 P, C‑244/99 P, C‑245/99 P, C‑247/99 P, C‑250/99 P to C‑252/99 P and C‑254/99 P, EU:C:2002:582, paragraph 59). That principle has also been laid down in Article 50 of the Charter as regards criminal proceedings and penalties.
48) Consequently, the answer to the second question is that the principle ne bis in idem, as enshrined in Article 50 of the Charter, must be interpreted as meaning that it applies to infringements of competition law, such as the abuse of a dominant position referred to in Article 102 TFEU, and precludes an undertaking from being found liable or proceedings from being brought against it afresh on the grounds of anticompetitive conduct for which it has been penalised or declared not liable by an earlier decision that can no longer be challenged. By contrast, that principle does not apply where proceedings are brought against or sanctions imposed on an undertaking separately and independently by a competition authority of a Member State and the Commission for infringements of Article 102 TFEU relating to separate product markets or separate geographical markets, or where a competition authority of a Member State is relieved of its competence pursuant to the first sentence of Article 11(6) of Regulation No 1/2003.