The National Court has rejected the appeal filed by the tobacco company Philip Morris against an inspection of its headquarters in Spain carried out by the authorities of the CNMC in 2017, within the framework of an investigation that resulted in a penalty of 15.3 million euros to the company for project631 release.
The ruling, to which Efe has had access, dismisses the arguments of the company, which accused the National Commission of Markets and Competition (CNMC) of ordering said inspection as if it were a ” fishing trip ” -expression used to define cases in which the investigation does not start from a previous hypothesis, but starts to see what irregularities it finds.
The tobacco company, owner of Marlboro -the best-selling cigarette brand in Spain-, recalled in its appeal that this type of action is “prohibited in Spanish and European law” and constitutes “a flagrant violation of the right to inviolability of the home.”
Furthermore, in his opinion, the investigation order was “excessively broad and generic” in that it did not sufficiently define its object, lacked evidence to authorize it, and did not delimit the geographical scope of the alleged irregularities, centered on an alleged agreement with other companies in the sector to exchange information on prices.
However, the National Court confirms the criteria of the CNMC and recalls that the inspection – carried out between February 28 and March 2, 2017 was authorized by a judicial order that was delivered to the legal head of the tobacco company. at the time of entering the building.
This point is key, since the National Court did annul the inspection carried out at the Altadis headquarters another of the companies involved in the same case precisely because the chief of the inspectors did not report on the existence or non-existence of a mandate. judicial to those responsible for the company.
The court, likewise, defends that the regulations do not require Competition “to transfer all the data at its disposal” to the company, and it did transmit “the formal indications required” to know what was the object of the investigation and its basis.
The CNMC initiated the investigation of several tobacco companies to verify “the existence of actions in the cigarette manufacturing, distribution and marketing market, since at least 1998, that could constitute prohibited restrictive practices” aimed at exchanging information on prices.
The Competition investigation analyzed “the exchange of data on daily sales in tobacconists, detailed by provinces and brands and with the maximum degree of detail” that allegedly carried out between 2008 and 2017 the tobacco companies Altadis , Philip Morris (Marlboro) and JTI ( Winston and Camel), as well as the wholesaler Logista.
According to their investigations, this practice allowed each manufacturer “to know with total precision and in real time the behavior pattern of all consumers in the market and the reaction of demand to price changes or the launch of new products.”
The authorities allege that this exchange caused that despite the “collapse in the demand for cigarettes” registered between 2008 and 2013 – it went from 4,500 million packs to less than 2,230 million – and the “changes in consumer preferences derived from the anti-smoking legislation “, the quota of the four big tobacco companies and Logista would remain” unchanged “.
The CNMC fined Logista 20.9 million, Philip Morris 15.3 million, Altadis 11.4 million and Japan Tobacco International (JTI) 10 million; the fourth “largest” in the sector, British American Tobacco, was unscathed for considering its participation in the events “prescribed” as it did not receive breakdown figures from the rest of the manufacturers since 2012.