Release of Confidential Cartel Information by European Commission to English High Court Suspended
On 29 November 2012, the EU General Court (GC) issued a provisional order suspending the European Commission’s decision to communicate to the High Court of England and Wales a copy of Alstom’s reply to the statement of objections in the gas insulated switchgear cartel. The statement of objections, which contained confidential business secrets, had been requested by the High Court in the context of a follow-on damages claim brought by National Grid, one of Alstom’s former customers.
For defendants, it will be reassuring to know that the GC will not allow the Commission to disclose contentious documents until the matter has been debated fully in court. Plaintiffs will be relieved that they are not completely shut out of court on the issue of access to Commission documents that might support their claim for damages. The matter does have to be debated at length, however, and the result is likely to be a set of nuanced and finely balanced rules that turn on the circumstances of each individual case.
This order is, therefore, another piece in the increasingly complex puzzle of procedures on access to documents in the European Union for the purposes of follow-on damages actions. There are also wider issues surrounding document protection that must be considered carefully.
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