Key facts of the case:
By Decision 2001/463/EC of 20 April 2001, the Commission had found abuses of a dominant position by the firm Der Grüne Punkt – Duales System Deutschland Gmb (below: "DSD") in breach of Article 82 of the EC Treaty. On 5 July 2001, DSD had brought proceedings for the annulment of this decision before the Court of First Instance (case T-151/01), which delivered its judgment only on 24 May 2007, rejecting this application in full. DSD then lodged an appeal against the judgment of the Court of First Instance, putting forward several pleas, including that arising from infringement of the
fundamental right to have the case dealt with within a reasonable time.
Results (sanctions) and key consequences of the case:
The ECJ held that although there was deemed to be a breach of the applicant’s right to an effective judicial remedy, there was nothing to indicate that the decision would have been any different if there had not been such a delay. The applicant nevertheless could still pursue an action for damages caused by that delay. That would have to be the subject of a separate action.
Interpretation of article(s) and implications for the resolution of the case:
The ECJ confirmed that the right to an effective remedy included having one’s case considered within a reasonable time. It confirmed that “everyone is entitled to a fair and public hearing within a reasonable time by an independent and impartial tribunal established by law.” (para 177) Where a case concerned “infringement of competition rules, the fundamental requirement of legal certainty on which economic operators must be able to rely and the aim of ensuring that competition is not distorted in the internal market are of considerable importance not only for an applicant himself and his competitors but also for third parties, in view of the large number of persons concerned and the financial interests involved” (para 186) The need to respect this right is therefore significant.
The ECJ also held that “the reasonableness of the period for delivering judgment is to be appraised in the light of the circumstances specific to each case, such as the complexity of the case and the conduct of the parties” (para 181) It stated that “the list of relevant criteria is not exhaustive and that the assessment of the reasonableness of a period does not require a systematic examination of the circumstances of the case in the light of each of them, where the duration of the proceedings appears justified in the light of one of them. Thus, the complexity of the case or the dilatory conduct of the applicant may be deemed to justify a duration which is prima facie too long” (para 182) 5 years and 10 months could not be justified by the circumstances of this case.