Motieka & Audzevičius team successfully represented a biofuel supplier before an extended panel of judges of the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania. The case is outstanding because: (i) it was reopened upon request of Competition Council; (ii) was heard orally; (iii) by an extended panel of judges; all three peculiarities are very rare and even more seldom in to happen together.
The favorable decision that Competition Council disagreed with
On 13 June 2018, the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania has agreed with the grounds of appeals of the biofuel supplier and biofuel buyer, annulled the judgment of the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court, decision of the National Competition Authority (Competition Council) and returned the case for a re-examine to the Competition Council. The Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania listed serious procedural infringements and lack of substantiation of the Competition Councils decision. This was the reason to established that the alleged infringement of Law on Competition of the Republic of Lithuania was not proved and our client could not have been fined by the Competition Council due to an alleged vertical exclusive agreement for the purchase of biofuels, which allegedly had a restrictive effect on competition. Precisely, the Supreme Administrative Court contradicted the Competition Council’s decision and established that the Competition Council incorrectly defined geographic market, therefore it must redefine the geographic market, to determine the possibility of applying for the block exemption, to objectively evaluate and correctly calculate the size of possible market foreclosure. The Supreme Administrative Court has obliged the Competition Council to reconsider the extent of the caused effect on competition (if any).
The reopening of proceedings
The Competition Council, as it was later established by the Supreme Administrative Court, took advantage of a possibility to misinterpret a specific statement of the 13 June 2018 decision and requested to reopen proceedings. The request to reopen was granted.
Nevertheless, Motieka & Audzevičus Regulatory & Antitrust team provided written and oral explanations to the Supreme Administrative Court of Lithuania, that convinced the extended panel of judges to disregard first-glance ambiguousness of the statement at the question and to conclude that the favorable for the client decision of 13 June 2018 was lawful and well-sounded.
The ruling of the Supreme Administrative Court means that the favorable decision of 13 June 2018 stays in power and the Competition Council must carry out an exhaustive investigation and carry the prescribed to it burden of proof in full.