A request for leniency allows businesses that have engaged in an anti-competitive agreement to end such practices and to avoid or benefit from a reduction of financial penalties.
Who is concerned
All businesses involved in the production and distribution of goods or the provision of services and that are participating in a cartel can request leniency from the Competition Authority (Autorité de la concurrence).
A business cannot benefit from the leniency programme if it has:
- committed an abuse of a dominant position; or
- coerced other businesses into taking part in the agreement.
A business that denounces an anti-competitive agreement in which it has participated must immediately withdraw from this agreement.
How to proceed
Request for leniency
Any business participating in a cartel (agreement) can contact the Competition Authority in order to report the existence of such a cartel and provide the information it has on the subject.
The leniency application should be addressed to the Competition Authority and should specify:
- the name and address of the business submitting the request;
- the circumstances behind the request for leniency;
- the members of the alleged cartel;
- the product(s) or service(s) in question;
- the territory or territories affected;
- the total duration of the alleged agreement;
- the nature of the alleged agreement;
- information concerning any request for leniency already submitted or to be submitted to any other competition authority, including outside the European Union, concerning the alleged agreement.
Competition Authority decision
As a first step, the Competition Authority will take a conditional decision, in which they set the conditions for leniency.
The request for leniency is followed by an inquiry and the business who denounced the cartel must provide:
- complete and continuous cooperation until the procedure is finished;
- all the proof and information on the alleged cartel that it has in its possession.
In the interest of the investigation and the business requesting leniency, requests must be handled with a high level of confidentiality, which is guaranteed by the Competition Authority throughout the investigation.
The definitive decision to grant leniency or not is only taken at the time of the final decision and is based on the precise criteria that were previously defined in the conditional leniency decision.
At the end of the investigation:
- if no offence is established, the Competition Authority closes the investigation and the request for leniency no longer applies;
- if an infringement is found, the Competition Authority will hear all parties concerned and take a decision to end the cartel: it also makes a ruling on the request for leniency and may decide to:
- fully release the business denouncing the cartel from paying a fine (in the event where the Competition Authority had no actual knowledge of this agreement and the information provided to it was actually pertinent);
- reduce the fine of the business denouncing the agreement (in the event where the authorities were already aware of the agreement, but the business provided additional proof or information).
A business can benefit from leniency measures:
- if it is the first to provide evidence that establishes the cartel; and
- if the Competition Authority did not have sufficient evidence at the time the request for leniency was submitted.
Who to contact